The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued disaster declarations for 16 California counties because of the two-week heat wave in July and August, making farmers and ranchers eligible for low-interest emergency loans.
Farmers in 32 neighboring counties also could be eligible for assistance from the Farm Service Agency, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that was released Friday.
California's 12-day heat wave -- the most intense in 57 years -- killed about 140 people and taxed the state's electrical system to near its breaking point. Thousands of cow carcasses had to be hauled to Central Valley landfills for disposal.
The state's agriculture suffered a projected $1 billion in damage.
The heat wave killed an estimated 16,500 cows and about 1 million chickens and turkeys and damaged a wide variety of crops, including walnuts, apples, tomatoes, plums and peaches.
The 16 counties are Butte, Calaveras, Fresno, Glenn, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Bernardino, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama and Tulare.
Schwarzenegger, who is running for reelection, asked the federal government in early August to aid the state's farmers. His Democratic opponent, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, had criticized the Republican governor as slow to request help from the Bush administration.