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Farmers, ranchers rush to take advantage of USDA disaster relief program after years of need

FILE - This Oct. 10, 2013 file aerial photo shows dead cattle in Sulphur Creek in western South Dakota during a flyover of areas hard hit by a snowstorm that killed thousands of animals. In a progress report Wednesday, July 9, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers and ranchers who suffered heavy livestock and grazing losses due to extreme weather in the past three years have been quick to take advantage of newly available disaster relief funds. The agency said it has distributed more than $1 billion in relief funds, a little less than half the overall amount predicted in the recently passed farm bill, in just over three months. The agency estimates it will spend $2.5 billion overall on disaster relief cases from 2011 to 2014. (AP Photo/KOTA-TV, Pool, File)

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FILE - This Oct. 10, 2013 file aerial photo shows dead cattle in Sulphur Creek in western South Dakota during a flyover of areas hard hit by a snowstorm that killed thousands of animals. In a progress report Wednesday, July 9, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers and ranchers who suffered heavy livestock and grazing losses due to extreme weather in the past three years have been quick to take advantage of newly available disaster relief funds. The agency said it has distributed more than $1 billion in relief funds, a little less than half the overall amount predicted in the recently passed farm bill, in just over three months. The agency estimates it will spend $2.5 billion overall on disaster relief cases from 2011 to 2014. (AP Photo/KOTA-TV, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers and ranchers who suffered heavy livestock and grazing losses due to extreme weather in the past three years have been quick to take advantage of newly available disaster relief funds.

The agency said in a progress report released Wednesday that it has distributed more than $1 billion in relief funds — a little less than half the overall amount predicted in the recently passed farm bill — in just over three months.

The USDA says it has processed and delivered more than 106,000 payments to farmers in 40 states as of July 2.

The agency estimates it will spend $2.5 billion overall on disaster relief cases from 2011 to 2014.

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