The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated 20 counties in Kansas as natural disaster areas because of losses caused by drought, excessive heat and high winds that began Jan. 1, 2011, and continue.

The counties are:

Allen, Cherokee, Greenwood, Neosho, Anderson, Coffey, Labette,  Pawnee, Bourbon, Crawford, Linn, Rush, Chase, Elk, Lyon, Wilson, Chautauqua, Ellsworth, Montgomery, Woodson

“Kansas producers can continue to count on USDA to provide emergency assistance during difficult times,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “America’s farmers and rural communities are vitally important to our nation’s economy, producing the food, feed, fiber and fuel that continue to help us grow and out-compete the rest of the world. President Obama and I arecommitted to use the resources at our disposal to reduce the impact of this disaster on Kansas producers and help to get those affected back on their feet.”

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Kansas also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous:

Barton, Franklin, Miami, Russell, Butler, Hodgeman, Morris, Saline, Cowley, Lincoln, Ness, Stafford, Edwards, Marion, Osage, Wabaunsee, Ellis, McPherson, Rice

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Missouri and Oklahoma also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous:

Missouri                                           

Barton, Bates, Jasper, Newton, and Vernon

                                                                                                                                                                  Oklahoma                                        

Craig, Nowata, Osage, Ottawa and Washington

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas Sept. 20, 2011, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

USDA also has made other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), which was approved as part of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008; the Emergency Conservation Program; Federal Crop Insurance; and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

FSA news releases are available on FSA’s website at www.fsa.usda.gov via the “News and Events” link.