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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Mesa and Otero counties in Colorado as primary natural disaster areas due to losses and damages caused by the recent extreme drought.

Ten other contiguous Colorado counties qualify for natural disaster assistance due to severe drought conditions. They are Bent, Crowley, Delta, Garfield, Gunnison, Kiowa, Las Animas, Montrose, Pitkin and Pueblo counties.

Chaffee County does not qualify for disaster assistance – at least not yet – although Chaffee County’s “moderate” drought rating is significantly higher than one year ago when the county benefited from a high snow pack winter season.

Disaster designation means that farmers and ranchers are eligible for the Farm Service Agency’s emergency loans, provided they meet eligibility requirements.

The announcement comes as the USDA is reporting that drought is expanding across Colorado and Utah. According to an April 17 report, abnormal dryness or drought currently affects approximately 4,169,000 people in Colorado, or about 83 percent of the state’s population.

Ranchers and farmers in counties designated as drought disaster areas have eight months to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. The FSA has a variety of programs available to help eligible farmers recover from major drought impact.

The agency also offers several agricultural programs that don’t require a disaster declaration. Among them are the Tree Assistance Program, the Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock program. More information about these and other assistance programs is available at

To find out how drought is affecting your area of Chaffee County, go to, then scroll down to “How is drought affecting your neighborhood?” and enter your zip code.