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Thursday, August 2, 2012 - 3:28am

USDA Declares Disasters In 6 More Counties

More than half of U.S. counties now are classified by the federal government as natural disaster areas mostly because of the drought.

The U.S. Agriculture Department on Wednesday added 218 counties in a dozen states as disaster areas, including six in Georgia. That brings this year's total to 1,584 in 32 states, more than 90 percent of them because of the drought.

With the new additions, farmers and ranchers in 148 of Georgia’s 159 counties are eligible for federal aid, including emergency loans.

The USDA also announced ranchers may access some 3.8 million acres of conservation land for haying and grazing, and crop insurance companies have agreed to provide farmers a penalty-free grace period on insurance premiums in 2012.

The Georgia counties included in the announcement are Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Haralson, Paulding, Polk. USDA officials classified the most of the rest of the state as disaster areas last month.