The Stafford Board of Supervisors unanimously requested yesterday that the county be declared a drought disaster relief area in an effort to help farmers.

If approved, the designation essentially would allow many farmers to stay in business, via low-interest emergency loans from the federal government. Officials do not foresee a problem receiving the drought disaster designation.

"With a year like this, I think [the request] will be honored," said Regina Prunty, agriculture extension agent for Stafford.

Stafford growers also were victims of a drought last year, when the county received disaster status in the fall. Officials say that this year is far worse.

"We're running a good two months ahead of last year because the drought basically started in April," Prunty said.

Officials estimate that losses in grazing pastures, which are used to feed animals, will be as high as 80 percent, while hay harvests will be down 75 percent, corn 65 percent and soybeans 40 percent. But those are conservative figures, Prunty said, and it is likely that losses will be much higher if there is not a break in the weather soon.

Meteorologists expect temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s with no rain for at least 10 days.

In Northern Virginia, Loudoun County already has been declared a federal disaster area. Several other counties in western and southwestern Virginia have received the distinction. Many counties bordering Stafford, including Fauquier, King George and Spotsylvania, have also recently applied for disaster relief.