North Coast farmers and ranchers became eligible for emergency loans last week after the U.S. Department of Agriculture named a wide swath of Northern California a disaster area due to drought conditions.

The department designated six counties as "primary" disaster areas: Del Norte, Mendocino, Siskiyou, Humboldt, Shasta and Trinity.

But farmers and ranchers in contiguous counties also are eligible for help. That affects those in Sonoma and Lake counties, as well Glenn, Lassen, Plumas, Tehama and Modoc counties.

Producers have up to eight months to apply for low-interest emergency loans. The department's Farm Services Agency has other assistance programs for eligible farmers harmed by drought.

Interested farmers are encouraged to contact their local USDA Service Center for further information or online to visit

— Compiled by Robert Digitale. Submit items to