- Associated Press - Friday, June 30, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Some federal aid is being made available for drought-stricken farmers and ranchers in the Upper Midwest.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is designating 15 North Dakota counties as primary natural disaster areas. That paves the way for emergency loans for producers in those counties and 19 contiguous counties in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.

Perdue also has expanded grazing on Conservation Reserve Program land in the three states.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map shows 25 percent of North Dakota in extreme drought. The worst areas are in the western part of the state. Small portions of north central South Dakota and eastern Montana also are in extreme drought.

The drought conditions are harming crops, causing many ranchers to sell off cattle, and prompting bans on open burning and fireworks.

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