Agriculture Secretary Richard Lyng declared 33 counties in Wyoming and Virginia as drought disaster areas Tuesday, raising to more than 1,500 the number of counties where low-cost emergency loans are available.

There are about 3,100 counties in the United States. In 18 states, every county is eligible for the loans from the Farmers Home Administration.Farmers and ranchers have eight months to apply for the FmHA loans. To qualify, they must be able to repay the loans but unable to get credit elsewhere.

The loans are a separate program from the $3.9 billion drought-relief law approved to help farmers and ranchers survive this year's brutal drought, although the law erased for this year the requirement that a farmer must have crop insurance in order to qualify for an FmHA emergency loan.

Farmers and ranchers began applying Monday for payments under the drought relief bill.

In a letter, Lyng told Gov. Michael Sullivan of Wyoming that he was naming 11 Wyoming counties as diaster areas and the FmHA loans would be available in five adjoining counties.

In Virginia, 21 counties were declared disaster areas.

The government also has cleared farmers in 2,233 counties in 43 states to graze livestock and harvest hay on land normally held out of production and has authorized aid to farmers in 1,980 counties in 41 states to help buy livestock feed.

In Virginia, Bland, Buchanan, Caroline, Carroll, Essex, Goochland, Grayson, King and Queen, Lancaster, Loudoun, Middlesex, Northumberland, Page, Powhatan, Richmond, Russell, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Westmoreland and Wythe counties were named natural disaster areas.

The adjoining Virginia counties where the loans also will be available are Accomack, Amelia, Chesterfield, Cumberland, Fauquier, Floyd, Fluvanna, Greene, Hanover, Henrico, James City, King William, Louisa, Madison, New Kent, Northampton, Patrick, Pulaski, Rappahannock, Spotsylvania and Warren.

In Wyoming, Albany, Carbon, Fremont, Goshen, Lincoln, Natrona, Platte, Sheridan, Teton, Uinta and Washakie counties were declared natural disaster areas.

The adjoining counties where the loans also will be available are Hot Springs, Laramie, Park, Sublette and Sweetwater.