Farmers and ranchers impacted by drought in Minnesota now qualify for federal emergency disaster assistance. The USDA designation makes hard-hit producers eligible for emergency loans and other assistance. Just last week ag secretary Tom Vilsack was in Minnesota and noted the shortcomings of current federal ag support programs. “Frankly our programs, as good as they are, as much help they can provide, are not really equipped for the kind of weather situations we’re now facing and will be facing in the future.” Blue Earth, Clay, Cottonwood counties are the primary areas covered by the disaster designation, with farmers in 15 nearby counties also eligible. These counties include Becker, Martin, Otter Tail, Brown, Murray, Redwood, Faribault, Nicollet, Waseca, Jackson, Nobles, Watonwan, Le Sueur, Norman, and Wilkin counties.