LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Federal officials have designated portions of 11 western and central states as primary natural disaster areas because of a drought.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's announcement Wednesday includes counties in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Kansas, Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Oklahoma and California.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement that he sympathizes with farmers and ranchers who are dealing with the lack of rain and snow, and assured them that the USDA will stand by them.
The designation means eligible farmers can qualify for low-interest emergency loans from the Agriculture Department.
Counties adjacent to those that are affected also are eligible for assistance.
The United States Drought Monitor reports that while storms have dumped rain and snow in the East, droughts are persisting or intensifying in the West.