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USDA Declares Disaster in 85 N.C. Counties

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday declared 85 North Carolina counties disaster areas because of the ongoing drought.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday declared 85 North Carolina counties disaster areas because of the ongoing drought.

The disaster declaration makes low-interest Emergency Disaster Loans available to farmers who can't get credit elsewhere. Under USDA rules, farmers in the 11 counties that neighbor those in the disaster area also are eligible for assistance.

“The drought this summer, coming on top of the Easter freeze and the windstorm last spring, has devastated many farms across the state," Gov. Mike Easley said in a statement. "This declaration is a good first step that will provide financial assistance for eligible farmers to help them recover some of their losses and get ready for the next growing season. Our farmers need all the help they can get.”

Federal agriculture reports show 85 counties with a 30 percent or greater loss of at least one significant crop. Many farmers have already exhausted their winter hay supplies and have had to find other sources of feed for cattle.

The state Drought Management Advisory Council issued a report Thursday showing that 98 of North Carolina's 100 counties were in severe, extreme or exceptional drought. Officials have said the region needs about two feet of rain in the coming months to escape the drought.

The counties in the disaster area are as follows:

Alamance, Alexander, Alleghany, Anson, Ashe, Avery, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Caswell, Catawba, Chatham, Cherokee, Chowan, Clay, Cleveland, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Davidson, Davie, Duplin, Durham, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Franklin, Gaston, Gates, Graham, Granville, Greene, Guilford, Halifax, Harnett, Haywood, Henderson, Hertford, Hoke, Iredell, Jackson, Johnston, Jones, Lee, Lenoir and Lincoln.

Also, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Montgomery, Moore, Nash, Northampton, Orange, Perquimans, Person, Polk, Randolph, Richmond, Robeson, Rockingham, Rowan, Rutherford, Sampson, Scotland, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Union, Vance, Wake, Warren, Watauga, Wayne, Wilkes, Wilson, Yadkin and Yancey.

The 11 neighboring counties eligible for assistance are Beaufort, Camden, Carteret, Martin, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Pitt and Washington.

The deadline for applying for loans from the Farm Service Agency is May 12, 2008.

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