The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 5 counties in Arizona as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by ongoing drought and related disasters that began Jan. 1 and continues.

The counties are: Apache, Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Santa Cruz.

"President Obama and I are committed to reducing the impact of this disaster for Arizona producers," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This designation will provide help to hundreds of Arizona farmers and ranchers who suffered significant crop losses."

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Arizona also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous: Gila, Navajo, Pinal, Pima.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas Aug. 16, 2011, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

USDA also has made other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), which was approved as part of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008; the Emergency Conservation Program; Federal Crop Insurance; and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.