Agriculture • Drought's impact means those affected are eligible for low-interest loans.
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Beaver and Iron counties as natural-disaster areas because of the effects of an extended drought in the area.
Garfield, Millard, Sevier, Kane, Piute and Washington counties also will receive assistance because they are adjacent to Beaver and Iron.
Last summer, 16 of Utah's counties were given the disaster designation because of damages and losses associated with one of the worst droughts nationally in the past 50 years. At the time, Beaver and Iron were designated "vulnerable" areas, but their conditions have worsened.
About $39 million is available for emergency low-interest loans for farmers nationwide.
Under the declaration, the federal government is streamlining the process for farmers to apply for disaster help and lowering the interest rate on emergency loans to 2.25 percent from 3.75 percent. The government also is reducing penalties for grazing livestock on land set aside for conservation.
In all, more than 1,000 counties in 26 states received disaster declarations, the largest such action ever by the USDA. The areas under the declaration mostly cover the Southwest, Southeast and portions of the Corn Belt, mainly Illinois and Indiana.
In Utah in mid-2012, wildfires scorched 50,000 acres in parts of the state, burning up summer grazing pastures. On top of that, drought in the San Rafael Swell of south-central Utah forced ranchers to remove their cattle from the desert range in early June rather than September or October during normal years. Ranchers had to feed hundreds of head of cattle hay then that was typically reserved for December, causing shortfalls that persist today.