WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture is scheduling four regional meetings that will serve as a platform for outlining available resources to assist with local, regional and state drought recovery efforts, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Sept. 20. The Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will work with USDA to facilitate the meetings.

The meetings will held in Omaha, Neb., on Oct. 9, with meetings to follow in Ohio, Colorado and Arkansas. More details will be available later, USDA said.

"The impact of drought can be felt in rural communities throughout the country and the Obama Administration is committed to doing everything it can to help farmers, ranchers, businesses, and local and county governments meet drought-related challenges," Vilsack said. "President Obama has instructed federal agencies to assist drought impacted regions, and these meetings will provide an opportunity for federal representatives to work cooperatively with local and regional leaders to learn about drought related impacts and determine how to best use existing programs to help speed recovery efforts."

Various stakeholders will assess current and emerging drought recovery issues ranging from infrastructure challenges to development and financing needs. USDA and other federal agencies are inviting local government, community, and business leaders, regional planning organizations, and economic and state development and agriculture organizations to explore the total recovery picture for the farm belt region, the agency said.

Vilsack also unveiled the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF), which is designed to that help align key roles and responsibilities in response to disaster recovery. The framework links local, state, tribal and federal governments, the private sector and non-governmental and community organizations that play key roles in disaster recovery.

USDA has designated all or parts of 39 states as natural disaster areas in 2012.