National News Rural areas seek piece of subprime-loan settlement October 21, 2014 15:58 GMT (Eds: APNewsNow. Will be updated. With AP Graphic SUBPRIME MORTGAGES. With BC-US--Subprime Lending-Rural Impact-Aftermath.) By HOPE YEN Associated Press Long seen as having devastated Sun Belt cities, the subprime mortgage crisis unleashed turmoil on close-knit towns of rural America. Now federal officials are pledging regulatory attention and financial help. Government data provided to The Associated Press by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Middlebury College show subprime loans were distributed in the rural U.S. at even higher rates on average than in metropolitan counties. The numbers reinforce what private groups have long said based off figures maintained by Ohio: The Buckeye State was tops in the number of foreclosure proceedings. The new research is helping shed light on many long-neglected rural counties with high rates of risky lending, and comes as U.S. banks pledge relief to hard-hit communities. Lawmakers want rural counties to get their fair share.