The government declared much of the central and southern Wheat Belt a natural disaster area on Wednesday due to persistent drought that imperils this year's winter wheat harvest.
In its first disaster declaration of the new year, the Agriculture Department made growers in large portions of four major wheat-growing states - Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas - eligible for low-interest emergency loans.
The four states grew one-third of the U.S. wheat crop last year. Kansas was the No. 1 state at 382 million bushels.