Farmers get access to more help after Irene

North Carolina farmers affected by Hurricane Irene last August and by tornadoes in April can get more help from the federal government with more loan options and payments to recover from crop losses.

State elected officials announced that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared 35 eastern counties disaster areas. The designation means farmers in those and surrounding counties that perhaps didn't qualify for previous disaster loans can seek them under another program. They also can apply for direct payments to help with significant crop losses.

State officials have said crop, forestry and agricultural equipment losses during Hurricane Irene could exceed $500 million.

Gov. Beverly Perdue's office said Wednesday this and other potential federal funding will affect what type of aid the state may provide to farmers.