USDA Dubs All Of Drought-Stricken Texas A Disaster

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has dubbed all of Texas a natural disaster as the worst drought in decades persists across most of the state.

In a news release sent Tuesday, the department designated 213 counties directly impacted by drought as disaster and said the remaining 41 also qualified for assistance because they are contiguous.

The designation, which also applies to 32 counties in four neighboring states, allows ranchers and farmers to apply for low-interest emergency loans.

Texas has had excessive heat, high winds and wildfires since the first of the year. More than 3 million acres have been scorched by the wildfires.

Losses in agriculture could top the 2006 record of $4.1 billion. About 71 percent of the state is in the worst drought stage.