- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture has designated 15 Montana counties as natural disaster areas due to drought.

Secretary Tom Vilsack also named nine counties near those 15 as contiguous disaster areas in his Wednesday letter to Gov. Steve Bullock.

The designations make farmers in all 24 counties eligible for emergency loans and other assistance from the Farm Services Agency, depending on the farmers’ losses.

Bullock says low snowpack and rain have left counties throughout Montana struggling with dry conditions.

The 15 primary disaster counties are Beaverhead, Deer Lodge, Flathead, Glacier, Granite, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Mineral, Missoula, Pondera, Powell, Ravalli, Sanders and Silver Bow.

The nine contiguous disaster counties are Broadwater, Cascade, Chouteau, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, Meagher, Teton and Toole.

The Montana Drought Advisory Committee meets Thursday in Helena.

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