On Wednesday, the U.S. Agriculture Department added 218 counties from 12 drought-stricken states to its list of natural disaster areas, bringing the overall total to 1,584 counties in 32 states. That's more than half of all U.S. counties, and the vast majority of them received the designation because of drought.
The USDA uses the weekly Drought Monitor to help decide which counties to deem disaster areas, with the distinction making farmers and ranchers eligible for federal aid that includes low-interest emergency loans.
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