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Washington D.C. - Wyoming farmers and ranchers received the chance to take advantage of long awaited drought assistance from the federal government recently, according to U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

On September 9, 2004 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) named 11 Wyoming counties as primary drought disaster areas. Big Horn, Campbell, Converse, Crook, Goshen, Johnson, Lincoln, Niobrara, Platte, Sheridan, and Weston counties sustained production losses of at least 30 percent of at least one crop, the requirement for such a designation.

The designation allows farm and ranch operators within the county to be considered for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The declaration can also be used by livestock producers who are selling more of their herd than normal as a result of the drought. In such cases, the producer is eligible to defer their taxes and replace their livestock.

Throughout the summer, Enzi sent letters to Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman asking her to support requests made by Governor Dave Freudenthal to designate these Wyoming counties as drought disaster areas. The designation would provide needed assistance to producers struck by the hardships of drought.

"I am pleased that Wyoming's requests to Secretary Veneman did not fall on deaf ears," said Enzi. "With such terrible drought conditions this year and in previous years, farmers and ranchers in these designated drought disaster areas should be able to continue on the road to recovery with the help of these loans."

Farmers and ranchers in Albany, Carbon, Laramie, Natrona, Park, Sublette, Sweetwater, Teton, Uinta, and Washakie counties are already eligible to be considered for the low-interest FSA emergency loans because of earlier designations as contiguous drought disaster counties. These 10 counties border primary drought disaster counties in Wyoming or neighboring states.

Eligibility for an FSA low-interest loan is based on the extent of loss, security available and repayment availability from farmers and ranchers within the designated drought areas.

The text of Enzi's letter to Secretary Veneman can be accessed through his website at www.enzi.senate.gov. For questions regarding the FSA loans call the Wyoming Farm Service Agency at 307-261-5231.