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U.S. designates more natural disaster areas amid worsening drought

(Xinhua)

10:32, July 26, 2012

WASHINGTON, July 25 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Department of Agricultural (USDA) Wednesday designated 76 additional counties in six states as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat.

Two-thirds of the continental United States was currently in a moderate to exceptional drought, the U.S. Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack announced in a statement, quoting the U.S. Drought Monitor.

During the 2012 crop year, 1,369 counties across 31 states had been designated as disaster areas -- 1,234 due to drought, said Vilsack, adding that it made them eligible for assistance such as low interest emergency loans.

The severe drought disasters sweeping from California to upstate New York have caused significant crop damage to many crops including corn, soybeans, pastures and rangeland, which is threatening agricultural harvest in the world's largest grain and meat producer.

In addition, many analysts are concerned that the damage and loss will push the U.S. and global food prices higher.

"USDA agencies have been working for weeks with state and local officials, as well as individuals, businesses, farmers and ranchers, as they begin the process of helping to get people back on their feet," said Vilsack.

Drought conditions would push soybeans and corn prices higher in the following months, but consumer food prices should not rise immediately, since the original costs for farm products were just a small proportion of a final supermarket bill, Vilsack noted last week.

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