Farmers in 26 counties in southern Illinois can apply for drought-related disaster relief. Under new rules announced by the US Department of Agriculture, those counties automatically qualify for a disaster designation. No formal declaration is necessary. The criteria include severe drought conditions for eight or more consecutive weeks during the growing season. Illinois Agriculture Department Acting Director Bob Flider says farmers in the affected counties may be eligible for low-interest emergency loans. The farmers are being told to contact their county Farm Service Agency office. The state agencies that make up Illinois' Drought Response Task Force met Wednesday to discuss recommendations and assistance for those hurt by the dry, hot weather.
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