Seven of Arizona's 15 counties have been declared agricultural disaster areas due to drought and the area is extended to include Gila County, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said Monday.
Glickman made the declaration in order to free up emergency loans for Apache, Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Pima, Pinal and Santa Cruz counties. The adjoining counties also eligible for help are Gila, Maricopa, Navajo and Yuma.
"Farmers and ranchers in Arizona are experiencing real difficulties this year due to drought," said Glickman. "USDA emergency low-interest loans are available to help producers cover some of their losses."
The disaster designation makes qualified family-sized farm operators in both primary and contiguous counties eligible for emergency low-interest loans from USDA.
Farmers in eligible counties have eight months to apply for the loans. Each loan application is considered on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available, repayment ability and other eligibility requirements.
USDA previously approved emergency haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program acreage, providing assistance to approved producers whose pastures have been decimated by drought.
For more information, farmers can contact Arizona's Farm Service Agency offices at (602) 640-5200.
According to USDA/NASS 1998 Arizona Agricultural Statistics, Arizona's agricultural production is a renewable resource industry, annually contributing $6.3 billion and 94,000 jobs to the state's economy.
The state is the nation's second largest producer of Angora goats, honeydew melons, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, cantaloupes, and lemons; the third largest producer of Pima cotton, Durum wheat, principal vegetables and tangerines; and a top-10 U.S. producer of oranges, onions, Upland cotton, cottonseed, grapefruit, watermelons, grapes and carrots.