In a decision that will allow farmers and ranchers to apply for assistance, USDA has designated 13 counties in Texas as primary natural disaster areas.

Armstrong, Lubbock, Martin, Oldham, Potter, Sherman, Swisher, Willacy, and Zavala counties were designated as primary natural disaster areas due to drought-induced losses which began in January, 2008.

Producers in the these listed counties also qualify because they are contiguous: Andrews, Dawson, Glasscock, Hutchinson, Midland, Borden, Deaf Smith, Gray, Kenedy, Moore, Briscoe, Dimmit, Hale, Kinney, Randall, Cameron, Donley, Hansford, La Salle, Terry, Carson, Floyd, Hartley, Lamb, Uvalde, Castro, Frio, Hidalgo, Lynn, Crosby, Gaines, Hockley, Maverick, Dallam, Garza, Howard, and Medina.

Borden County qualifies as a primary area resulting from fires on March 31, 2008. The following contiguous counties also qualified for benefits: Dawson, Garza, Howard, Lynn, Martin, Mitchell, and Scurry.

Due to hail losses on May 14, 2008, Concho County was labeled a primary natural disaster area. The contiguous counties of Coleman, McCulloch, Menard, Runnels, Schleicher and Tom Green also qualified.

Another area designated as primary was Fisher County, due to high winds on April 23, 2008. Producers in Jones, Kent, Mitchell, Nolan, Scurry, Stonewall, and Taylor counties also qualified for assistance due to their contiguous status.

Hartley County received designation as a primary natural disaster area because of a drought which began in January, 2008. The contiguous counties of Dallam, Moore, Oldham, and Sherman also qualify. Quay and Union counties in New Mexico, also both qualify because of their contiguous location.

The disaster counties were designated on June 27, 2008, allowing all operators in the areas eligible for low interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

Producers have an eight month window to apply for the loans.

Additional information is available at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.