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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi, and Rep. Barbara Cubin, all R-WY, said today that Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman has approved drought disaster designations for seven Wyoming counties through the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

The seven counties approved today for primary disaster declarations include: Converse, Goshen, Niobrara, Platte, Sublette, Sweetwater and Weston. Secretary Veneman previously declared 15 Wyoming counties as primary disaster areas in mid-September. Counties designated as primary disaster areas allow eligible producers to receive a portion of the $752 million from the Livestock Compensation Program (LCP).

"I have been actively working with Secretary Veneman over the past several months to ensure that the remaining Wyoming counties receive their primary disaster declarations," said Senator Thomas, who is a member on the Senate Agriculture Committee. "The dollar amount announced is 50 percent larger than any other payment since 1998 and that is excellent news for our producers in Wyoming. This is just what we need to get help to folks in our state and I am pleased that the Secretary has approved these final county declarations."

"I'm pleased that after my recent correspondence with Secretary Veneman and the efforts of the entire delegation, she recognized the importance of making these designations a priority. Ranchers in these newly designated counties have had to wait to get the assistance their friends and neighbors have been eligible to receive, even though Wyoming's entire agriculture community is suffering from drought," said Enzi. "This designation will open up other avenues of assistance, like the Livestock Compensation Program, for many more ranchers that are in dire need of help."

"This designation provides welcome relief for Wyoming's livestock producers, and I applaud the Bush Administration for recognizing the severity of this disaster," said Cubin. "Earlier this month, I heard from many folks at the National Drought Summit I hosted that what is really needed is immediate cash assistance. I will continue to push my bill to provide $6 billion in emergency drought aid and work to raise the awareness of the natural disaster this drought has become to Wyoming's working families." According to the USDA, Teton County is the only Wyoming county that was not granted the disaster declaration. The agency denied Teton County's request saying it was unable to confirm that sufficient production losses occurred because it did not sustain a 30 percent or greater production loss in a single enterprise. Teton County will remain eligible for other federal assistance programs.

The USDA designation makes producers eligible for direct payments from FSA. Those eligible in the primary disaster declaration counties should contact their local FSA office for more information.