Washington and Benton Counties Declared Disaster Areas

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The federal government declared Washington and Benton counties natural disaster areas Wednesday because of the ongoing drought.

The two counties were included in a group of 218 new counties across 12 states the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared as eligible for federal aid. The department also opened up 3.8 million acres for emergency haying and grazing.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that crop insurance companies have agreed to provide a grace period to farmers on 2012 insurance premiums.

Farm operators in disaster areas are also eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

The new announcement of counties means 1,584 counties across 32 states have been declared disaster areas by the Department of Agriculture, all but 132 of them due to drought.