The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Lassen County in California as a primary natural disaster area because of losses caused by drought that occurred from Jan. 1, 2009, and continue on.

"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to farms in California and we want to help," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses to pasture and forage."

Farm operators in Modoc, Plumas, Shasta and Sierra counties in California also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

Farm operators in Washoe County in Nevada also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their county is contiguous.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas Nov. 13, 2009, 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 variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

USDA has also 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.