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    More Than Half of U.S. Counties Now Natural Disaster Areas

    By by Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com Online Journalist
    August 09, 2012, 1:48:39 AM EDT

    More than half of the counties in the U.S. have now been labeled "natural disaster areas" by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as of Wednesday.

    The USDA added 218 more counties in 12 states to the list, due to "damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat," a USDA report reads.

    "The core of the heat has been settling southward over the Plains in recent days," Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

    "While conditions may improve slightly in the coming weeks over the central Plains, they could get worse for a time in the southern Plains and interior Texas, as far as grazing lands are concerned." RELATED:
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    Pledging a commitment to helping America's farmers and ranchers, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced two new pieces of disaster assistance for the farmers and ranchers affected.

    Vilsack, partnered with President Obama, has expanded emergency haying and grazing on approximately 3.8 million acres of conservation land to bring relief to livestock producers that are experiencing hay and pastureland shortages.

    Additionally, he announced that crop insurance companies will now provide a 30-day grace period for farmers on insurance premiums in 2012, preventing incurring interest due to unpaid premiums.

    "President Obama and I will continue to take swift action to get help to America's farmers and ranchers through this difficult time," said Vilsack.

    The assistance seeks to support U.S. livestock producers "dealing with climbing feed prices, critical shortages of hay and deteriorating pasturelands."

    A full list of the counties now designated as disaster areas can be found here.


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