The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released some new information on severe drought conditions impacting the country this year. The government has just designated 597 counties, about 20 percent of the United States, as natural disaster areas due to severe drought conditions.

The severe drought in 2012 caused food prices to spike across the U.S. Jenna Lee spoke with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the situation in an exclusive interview on Happening Now.

Vilsack said he believes the government has a key role to play in helping farmers get through these tough times. One way is by extending crop insurance that can "keep farmers afloat" when they are not able to sell their crops due to drought conditions.

He also expressed his hope that Congress will renew the farm bill, saying the version passed by the Senate contains reforms that would have saved his department $23-$34 billion.

Watch the full interview: