Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen has announced that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has designated 12 more counties a natural disaster for agriculture as a result of drought and excessive heat during the growing season. Bredesen requested the Secretarial designation last month.

Counties designated as primary natural disaster areas include Benton, Bledsoe, Blount, Carroll, Greene, Loudon, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Roane, Warren and Weakley.

“This has been an unusual growing season for farmers who have had to endure the extremes of flooding and drought,” said Bredesen. “I’m pleased that farmers in these areas have an opportunity to apply for federal assistance to help them better prepare for next year.”

The Secretarial disaster designation makes farmers in primary and adjoining counties eligible to apply for low-interest loans and supplemental farm payments through their local USDA Farm Service Agency.

The adjoining counties include Anderson, Bradley, Cannon, Cocke, Coffee, Cumberland, DeKalb, Decatur, Gibson, Grundy, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hawkins, Henderson, Henry, Houston, Humphreys, Knox, Madison, Morgan, Obion, Perry, Polk, Rhea, Sequatchie, Sevier, Stewart, Unicoi, Van Buren, Washington and White. Knox and Sumner counties were designated primary natural disaster areas in October.

Farmers in affected counties have reported crop losses generally ranging from 30 to 50 percent, and higher in some cases, for corn, soybeans, cotton, hay and specialty crops. Livestock producers also reported feeding winter stocks of hay earlier than normal this year.

According to the Tennessee Field Office of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, the final seasonal survey for the week ending Nov. 7 showed two-thirds of pastures statewide rated in poor to very poor condition. For the latest forecast on the state’s crop harvest, visit www.nass.usda.gov/tn.