HELENA (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared Tuesday a drought disaster in 15 additional Montana counties, bringing the number of counties in a declared disaster to 31 of Montana’s 56 counties.
The declaration makes farms in the affected area eligible for emergency loans and other federal assistance. It comes after Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte declared a statewide drought emergency last week and requested that the Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declare a federal emergency in the entire state.
“I appreciate Secretary Vilsack responding to my request and designating additional Montana counties as natural disaster areas, but there’s more USDA needs to do now to help our ag producers,” Gianforte said in a statement. “With every region of the state facing severe to extreme drought conditions, I continue to call on USDA to declare the entire state a drought disaster area.”
More than 92 percent of Montana is experiencing abnormally dry conditions, according to data released last week.
Hill and Wheatland counties have been designated as primary disaster areas. Farms are also eligible for assistance from the Farm Service Agency in 13 additional counties — Blaine, Chouteau, Fergus, Golden Valley, Judith Basin, Liberty, Meagher, Sweet Grass, Lincoln, Missoula, Sanders, Mineral, and Ravalli counties.