The U.S. Department of Agriculture has added a New Mexico county to its list of primary natural disaster areas due to drought and excessive heat.
Cibola County joins 39 counties in eight states in the latest designation Wednesday.
In all, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has declared nearly 1,300 counties in 29 states as disaster areas during the current crop year. Much of New Mexico and the Southwest is already on the list.
The designation makes qualified farm operators eligible for low-interest emergency loans and other aid. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsak recently reduced the interest rate for the loans from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent.
According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report, at the end of June, 55 percent of the contiguous United States was experiencing drought--and one-third of the country was experiencing drought conditions considered "severe to extreme."
According to that same report, the last time the nation experienced similar drought conditions was in December 1956 when 58 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in moderate to extreme drought.
Currently, the entire state of New Mexico is experiencing drought conditions, ranging from "abnormally dry" to "extreme." View data and maps online at the National Weather Service website.
Click here to view U.S. Drought Monitor maps of the United States.
Listen to KUNM later this week for coverage of how drought is affecting the Rio Grande.