The USDA designated Wallowa County and four other Oregon counties, variously struck by drought, frost and catastrophic wildfires, as natural disaster areas.

The declaration qualifies farmers and ranchers in the five counties and in six contiguous Oregon counties for low interest emergency loans and other natural disaster benefits.

Farmers and ranchers in seven Idaho counties, three Washington counties and one Nevada county also are eligible for the benefits.

Counties declared natural disaster areas include Baker, Harney, Malheur, Union and Wallowa.

Contiguous counties that qualify for the benefits include Grant, Umatilla, Union, Crook, Deschutes and Lake.

Idaho counties that qualify are Adams, Ada, Nez Perce, Washington, Canyon, Owyhee and Payette.

"Damaging frost, drought and catastrophic wildfire pummeled Eastern Oregon again this year, placing ranchers and farmers in a very vulnerable economic position," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who campaigned heavily for the declaration.

"Disaster declarations for these counties are an important piece of getting the federal assistance to those who need it most."

Walden also is working with the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Cattlemen's Association and high-ranking USDA officials to ensure Oregon ranchers and farmers can qualify for additional federal disaster assistance programs, said Andrew Whelan of Walden's Washington, D.C., office.

Additional USDA programs available to assist farmers and ranchers affected by natural disasters include the Emergency Conservation Program, Federal Crop Insurance and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

Farmers and ranchers interested in participating in the programs are advised to contact their local USDA Service Center for further information.

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