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Pawlenty seeks disaster declaration for northern Minnesota

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ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants the federal government to declare 18 northern Minnesota counties disaster areas due to "significant crop loses."

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The governor asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to take the action so farmers can obtain low-interest government loans.

Pawlenty said that farmers in those counties experienced significant crop losses in 2009 due to what he described as difficult growing conditions. Northeastern Minnesota farmers experienced drought-like weather, Pawlenty said, while others in the northern parts of the state had a cold, wet growing season with an early frost.

Many farmers experienced crop loses of at least 30 percent, he said. Affected were corn, soybean, canola, sunflower, flax, barley, oats, blueberry, dry edible beans, rye and sugar beet crops, as well as honey.

Counties he included in the request are Roseau, Beltrami, Pennington, Clearwater, Wilkin, Mahnomen, Becker, Pope, Hubbard, Wadena, Cass, Crow Wing, Aitkin, Itasca, St. Louis, Lake, Cook and Carlton.

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