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Ag disaster declared in 16 Minnesota counties, including Pope

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ST. PAUL -- Farmers in 16 Minnesota counties will be eligible for emergency loans and other help after dealing with multiple weather problems.

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U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday announced the farmers, mostly in northern Minnesota, are due federal aid because their farms have sustained excessive rain, flooding, frost and cold.

"Many farm operations are already struggling with low farm prices, and these weather disasters have made it even harder for them to operate," Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said.

"Farmers in these counties were faced with many different types of challenges that damaged crop production," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. "This agricultural disaster designation and federal assistance will help farm operators who suffered losses this fall."

Counties in the disaster declaration are Aitkin, Becker, Beltrami, Carlton, Cass, Clearwater, Cook, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Lake, Mahnomen, Pope, St. Louis, Wadena and Wilkin. Farmers in adjoining counties also may receive federal assistance, and those in Pennington and Roseau counties were declared disaster areas last fall. Federal officials said they will decide on a case-by-case basis what farmers are eligible for aid. Local Farm Services Administration offices are farmers' points of contact.

Aid usually consists of low-interest loans.

Pawlenty requested the disaster declaration on Jan. 11, telling Vilsack that significant weather-related crop losses were reported in 2009.

Minnesota's northern counties experienced a variety of weather, ranging from near drought in the northeast to cold and wet growing conditions in the north central to flooding in the northwest.

Pawlenty's office said farmers in the affected counties lost at least 30 percent of their corn, soybeans, canola, sunflowers, flax, barley, oats, blueberries, honey, dry edible beans, rye and sugar beet crops.

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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