Fourteen Maine counties have been designated as natural disaster areas because of this year’s drought, making farmers in those counties eligible for disaster relief assistance.

Primary natural disaster areas were declared in Franklin, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Sagadahoc, Somerset and Washington counties by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Tuesday. Androscoggin, Aroostook, Cumberland, Kennebec, Lincoln, Oxford, Waldo and York counties were named contiguous disaster counties. Aroostook County had already been declared a primary natural disaster area in September.

Farmers affected by the drought are eligible for the same relief, regardless of whether they are in a primary or contiguous disaster area, state officials said.

The state’s congressional delegation hailed the designation in a joint statement and said that the aid will provide additional assistance to farmers who already were struggling with the business impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the designation, farmers in the counties affected can get financial assistance, including Farm Service Agency loans that can be used to restore or replace essential property, pay for all or part of production costs, pay essential family living expenses, reorganize the farming operation and refinance some debts.

Farmers have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans.

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