AGRICULTURE SECRETARY Dan Glickman has declared the entire state of Mississippi an agricultural disaster area due to drought and excessive heat. The declaration makes farmers in the state and adjoining counties eligible for USDA emergency loans.

"The extreme weather has severely impacted soybeans, cotton, other major crops and pasture lands in Mississippi," said Glickman. "USDA is working to help farmers recover from this serious situation."

The announcement brings to 11 the number of states or parts of states that have been designated as disaster areas since Aug. 1. A federal disaster declaration is required before farmers can become eligible for low interest rate loans and other forms of emergency government assistance.

Besides those in Mississippi's 82 counties, farmers in contiguous counties and parishes that adjoin the state also are now eligible for such assistance.

Contiguous counties in Arkansas are Chicot, Crittenden, Desha, Lee, Phillips and St. Francis; in Louisiana, Concordia, East Carroll, East Feliciana, Madison, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Tensas, Washington and West Feliciana; and in Tennessee, Fayette, Hardaman, McNairy and Shelby.

Additional counties in Tennessee and Alabama were previously designated as disaster areas.

Farmers in those areas have eight months from the Sept. 19 declaration date to apply for emergency loans to help cover part of their actual losses. USDA's Farm Service Agency will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available, repayment ability and other eligibility requirements.

Producers in some Mississippi counties and contiguous counties may also be eligible for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), which provides cost-share assistance to supply water for livestock and other conservation measures. About $3 million is currently available for ECP.

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 about the program, farmers should contact their county Farm Service Agency offices or visit the USDA Website: www.fsa.usda.gov/.