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Pawlenty seeks ag disaster declaration

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ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants the federal government to provide low-interest loans to farmers in six northern Minnesota counties affected by wet weather in 2008 and 2009.

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Pawlenty sent a letter asking U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to declare Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Pennington, Roseau and Koochiching counties as disaster areas, opening the way for the loans.

"During the fall of 2008, the region experienced above-average precipitation, leaving saturated soils," Pawlenty wrote. "This condition was exacerbated in the spring of 2009 by heavy precipitation, near-record flooding of the Red River Valley and unseasonably cool temperatures."

Pawlenty told Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, that the weather prevented many farmers from planting crops.

Federal officials say farmers in the six counties experienced crop loses of at least 30 percent because they could not plant corn, soybeans, wheat, canola, sunflowers, flax and barley.

Vilsack must make a decision whether to offer the low-interest loans, but most such requests are granted.

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