ST. PAUL -- Farmers in 26 Minnesota counties affected by drought are eligible for federal loans.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the loan program Friday, putting local Farm Service Agency offices in charge of taking applications.
"This drought continues to affect Minnesota, putting a strain on our farmers' and ranchers' livelihoods," U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said.
The declaration designates Big Stone, Chippewa, Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Pope, Sherburne, Stearns, Swift and Wright counties as primary disaster areas. Like other disaster declarations, Friday's action also provides aid to farmers in adjoining counties: Anoka, Benton, Carver, Douglas, Grant, Hennepin, Isanti, Lac Qui Parle, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Renville, Sibley, Stevens, Todd, Traverse and Yellow Medicine.
Most U.S. counties have some form of crop disaster declaration this year, mostly due to drought. Federal officials provide low-interest loans to farmers and ranchers affected by the dry weather.
Klobuchar and two other Democrats, Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Collin Peterson, used the declaration to lobby for passage of a new farm bill.
"Drought is just one of the risks farmers face every year, and that's why the House of Representatives needs to pass the Senate's farm bill and give our farmers the stability they need to plan for next year," Franken said.
Peterson added: "A strong safety net is necessary to providing the support and certainty farmers need during difficult times. This is why passing a five-year farm bill should be at the top of the congressional agenda when we reconvene in November."
The Senate passed its version of the farm bill earlier this year, but House Republican leadership has held up a vote, citing lack of support. Both versions emphasize a heavier reliance on providing farmers with crop insurance instead of subsidy payments.