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Ag chief: Congress must bolster drought relief

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says his department is using its limited tools to help farmers facing widespread drought conditions, but it needs Congress to pass legislation to provide better disaster relief.

The House passed legislation Thursday to revive disaster relief programs for livestock producers affected by drought before lawmakers left for a five-week recess, but the Senate didn't act on the bill.

Vilsack met Friday with producers while visiting the Ohio State Fair and said passage of a more comprehensive farm policy bill is needed.

The House Republican leadership has resisted bringing it to the floor because of fears that conservative lawmakers might oppose spending levels in the bill.

More than half of all U.S. counties have been designated primary disaster areas this growing season, mostly due to drought.