ST. PAUL  (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 11 Minnesota counties as disaster areas because of the combined impacts of excessive rain, high heat, strong winds, tornadoes and an early fall frost this year.

The declaration announced Wednesday makes affected farmers in those counties eligible for low-interest loans from the Farm Service Agency as well as aid from other USDA programs.

The primary declaration covers nine counties in western Minnesota and two in central Minnesota: Big Stone, Chippewa, Grant, Lac qui Parle, Redwood, Renville, Sibley, Stearns, Stevens, Traverse and Wright. The covered period runs from April 1 through Sept. 15.

Affected farmers can also qualify in 23 Minnesota counties that border those 11 counties as well as four bordering counties in the western Dakotas.

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