Counties whose farmers are being hit by heat and drought will find it easier and faster to be designated as agricultural disaster areas under some new rules announced by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Vilsack says they are providing for an automatic qualification for any county that has been in drought monitor D2 condition for 8 consecutive weeks or a  D3 condition anytime during the growing season, to be automatically qualified under a secretarial designation. Vilsack says he is also streamlining the process for other counties to be designated as disaster areas,  reducing emergency loan interest rates, and reducing by 15 percent the payment penalty that landowners occur when doing emergency haying and grazing on conservation reserve land.