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Low river levels cramp commerce, affects economy

Pamela Cotton of St. Louis fishes along a newly exposed bank of the Mississippi River near North Riverfront Park in St. Louis on Monday, July 16, 2012. Cotton says she fished from the same location but about 15 feet back during a higher water level just a few weeks ago. "Last time, I was standing way back there," she said, pointing toward the tree line behind her. Photo by Christian Gooden,


U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack designated all of Missouri's 114 counties as primary disaster areas today, enabling farmers to access federal assistance.

The announcement came Tuesday as Gov. Jay Nixon toured the state to visit farmers and ranchers impacted by the ongoing drought.

“This designation can help livestock and crop farmers across the state who are suffering great losses because of the heat and lack of rain,” Nixon said. “We're going to continue to stand with farmers during this ongoing disaster and afterward, to help with their recovery. This designation is part of that process.”

Roughly two-thirds of the lower 48 states are experiencing drought conditions, but Missouri and Illinois are especially dry.

Both states are listing resources, including a directory where livestock farmers can find hay for their animals, at and

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