In a two-day burst, the USDA designated 372 counties, roughly one of every seven counties in the country, from Texas and Kansas to California and Hawaii, as natural disaster areas due to persistent drought. At the same time, Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded California’s drought emergency to 41 counties, including parts of the agricultural Central Valley.

More than 46{06d6670df80e02c0b1a51bdfaefb71b6e69ecb50fe99d893294764e2911a48c2} of the country, mostly in the West, is in drought – an unusually large portion, according to USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey. “There have been only four times in the history of the Drought Monitor that we have seen more than 40{06d6670df80e02c0b1a51bdfaefb71b6e69ecb50fe99d893294764e2911a48c2} U.S. drought coverage as we come into early May,” Rippey told Iowa radio station KMA.

The natural disaster designations make farmers and ranchers eligible for USDA emergency loans, for needs such as replacement of equipment and livestock or financial reorganization. Almost every county in Arizona, Colorado, California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wyoming was declared a primary disaster area by USDA. Counties in six other states also were declared primary disaster areas. Producers in adjoining counties also are eligible.

To qualify for an emergency loan, producers generally must suffer crop losses of at least 30{06d6670df80e02c0b1a51bdfaefb71b6e69ecb50fe99d893294764e2911a48c2} or a loss of livestock or other property, according to a USDA fact sheet. Borrowers usually are required to buy crop insurance. The maximum loan is $500,000.

About 30{06d6670df80e02c0b1a51bdfaefb71b6e69ecb50fe99d893294764e2911a48c2} of California’s population is covered by the drought emergency proclamation, reported the Los Angeles Times. Drought is expected to worsen the fire season, reduce irrigation supplies for farmers, and create risk for fish and wildlife habitat. Southern California was largely excluded from the proclamation.

“With the reality of climate change abundantly clear in California, we’re taking urgent action to address acute water supply shortfalls in Northern and Central California while also building our water resilience to safeguard communities in the decades ahead,” said Newsom, who asked Californians to cut down on water use.