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USDA approves assistance to apple, cherry farmers






PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Farmers in five Oregon counties and three counties in Washington state are now eligible for low-interest emergency loans after a warm spell in February ended with frosts and freezing temperatures that damaged cherry and apple crops.






The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated Umatilla County as a primary natural disaster area on Wednesday. The four contiguous counties of Grant, Morrow, Union and Wallowa will also get assistance in the form of low-interest loans to farmers.






Farmers in Benton, Columbia and Walla Walla counties in Washington state are also eligible.






Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack says farmers suffered "significant losses."






Farmers have eight months to apply for the loans from the department's Farm Service Agency.






Copyright 2011 The AP.



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