Nearly 220 U.S. counties in a dozen drought-stricken states were added on Wednesday to the government’s list of natural disaster areas as the nation’s agriculture chief unveiled new help for frustrated, cash-strapped farmers and ranchers struggling with extreme dryness and heat. The Department of Agriculture’s additional 218 counties means that more than half of all U.S. counties, 1,584 in 32 states, have been determined primary disaster areas the growing summer season. The drought is considered the worst in decades.
Counties in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming were included in the announcement on Wednesday. The Agriculture Department uses the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor to help decide which counties to designate disaster areas, which makes farmers and ranchers eligible for federal aid, including interest emergency loans.