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Thu Aug 2, 2012, 09:04 AM

1,584 Counties Now Declared Disaster Areas By USDA, 1,452 Because Of Drought - About Half Of U.S.

More than 200 additional counties hit by the worst drought in the United States in decades were declared disaster areas on Wednesday as concerns about financial losses and soaring food prices stayed on the boil. Triple-digit temperatures continued to roast crops and livestock in the U.S. Midwest and southern Plains, though forecasts for more scattered rains took some of the edge off grain markets after recent record highs.

Water levels on rivers, reservoirs and ponds remained low and power grids felt the burden of heavy air-conditioning demand as sweltering temperatures baked the rural heartland in the largest food-exporting nation.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took more steps to provide drought-hit farmers with relief, naming another 218 counties in 12 states as disaster areas due to the drought and making farmers eligible for low-interest loans and other aid.

The USDA has now designated 1,584 counties in 32 states -- more than half of all counties in the United States -- as disaster areas, 1,452 due to drought.



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