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Undersecretary of USDA tours Wisconsin drought damage

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WATERLOO -- Federal officials toured drought damage in Wisconsin Thursday, August 2nd and spoke about how they're looking to help. Michael Scuse, the undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture toured the damage and spoke with farmers Thursday.

Scuse toured the Crave Brother's Cheese Factory in Waterloo, Wisconsin Thursday, where Crave Brother's co-owner Tom Crave says the drought has impacted crops and livestock.

Scuse says the federal government is trying to help farms in need by working with insurance companies to defer interest on farmer loans and lower interest rates on emergency loans.

"We reduced the interest rate from 3.5% to 2.25% for our producers who need emergency loans," Scuse said.

Scuse says the U.S. Department of Agriculture has streamlined the drought declaration process to get assistance to farmers faster.

"This drought is taking a toll. At the end of the day, we think we're gonna be able to get assistance to our producers not in 89 days, but hopefully 25 days or less," Scuse said.

At Crave Brothers Cheese Factory, they're grateful for their crop insurance. They will decide in the fall whether to seek federal assistance.

"The biggest factor is to see what our yields are and then we will be able to determine where we go from there," Crave said.

Scuse says about 60% of the country is very dry right now, and while what he's seen in Wisconsin is severe, it's not as bad as what he's seen in other states -- particularly in Indiana where the drought has been especially bad.

Right now, lawmakers in Washington are debating a disaster relief bill that would give disaster assistance to livestock producers. The old relief program expired last year. The bill passed in the House Thursday.

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