MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Federal officials have declared 23 counties in southern Wisconsin as natural disaster areas, making farms in those areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans.
The counties have been baked by recent heat waves in which temperatures sizzled into the 100-degree range and left severe drought conditions that took a major toll on crop production.
The disaster designation was announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Scott Walker said the state will begin accepting applications for its Drought Relief Guarantee Program. The program would provide a 90 percent guarantee on agricultural loans up to $15,000 for three years.
Earlier this month, Walker opened up some state-owned lands for hay and grazing. He also sped up the process for farmers to temporarily irrigate using stream or lake water.