White House urges Congress to boost local drought aid | News | DW | 19.07.2012
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White House urges Congress to boost local drought aid

The US government is calling on Congress to help American farmers through their worst drought in a quarter of a century. Little or no rain is forecast.

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met US President Barack Obama on Wednesday to discuss a response to the lack of rain, which has affected three-fifths of the country's land mass.

Vilsack said the Republican-led Congress needed to pass a five-year $500 billion farm and nutrition bill that is awaiting action in the House of Representatives, or at least approve extra disaster programs and provide more flexibility on credit.

"I get on my knees everyday and I'm saying an extra prayer right now," Vilsack said after briefing Obama. "If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it."

The Department of Agriculture has extended drought aid to an extra 39 counties as the conditions worsened. In all, a total of 1,297 counties across 29 states are designated as primary natural disaster areas.

Heat-wave scorching crops

There was no let up in the heat-wave on Wednesday, with Iowa and Illinois, which produce about a third of US corn and soybeans, sweltering in temperatures at or above 100 degrees (37.8 degrees Celsius). Little to no rain is forecast.

In many parts of the country, power grids are under pressure from high demand on air conditioning. In New York City, voltages in some Manhattan neighborhoods have been reduced, resulting in power failures.

rc/ipj (AP, Reuters)