JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Twenty-eight Missouri counties hit by severe drought conditions this year are eligible for emergency loans from the federal government after a major disaster declaration requested by Gov. Jay Nixon was granted Wednesday by Tom Vilsack, U.S. secretary of agriculture. Farmers in Cape Girardeau, Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi and Bollinger County may now seek disaster assistance for crop losses suffered from May 1 to Sept. 30. "Southern Missouri took the brunt of harsh conditions, causing reduced crop yields, scorched pastures and dry ponds, and this declaration will help expedite the recovery process," Nixon said in a news release. Other counties included in the declaration are Barry, Bates, Butler, Carter, Dade, Dallas, Dent, Dunklin, Hickory, Howell, Laclede, Lawrence, Oregon, Pemiscot, Polk, Reynolds, Ripley, Shannon, St Clair, Stoddard, Texas, Wayne and Webster.