DENVER (AP) — Federal officials have declared a drought-related disaster in southeast Colorado, making farmers and ranchers eligible for emergency help.

The Department of Agriculture’s declaration covers Baca, Crowley and Otero counties. Farmers in those counties and the surrounding counties of Bent, El Paso, Kiowa, Las Animas, Lincoln, Prowers and Pueblo can apply for emergency loans.

Farmers have eight months to apply.

Gov. John Hickenlooper had requested drought assistance for southeast Colorado.

Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado announced earlier this month that ranchers in several counties where the drought has dried up pastures will be able to graze their animals on land set aside as part of a federal conservation program. Udall says farmers face heavy losses due to the drought.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)