HELENA - The state Department of Agriculture will administer more than $933,000 in federal drought assistance to livestock producers who suffered forage production losses in seven south-central and southeastern Montana counties, Gov. Brian Schweitzer
"This assistance is badly needed in areas where ranchers face the possibility of having to drastically reduce their foundation herds if they can't purchase feed to sustain animals through the fall and winter," Schweitzer said.
The department will work with the Montana State University Extension Service to sign up affected producers from Oct. 16 to Nov. 28.
The goal is to make checks available by the end of December, said Nancy K. Peterson, department director.
Eligible counties are Big Horn, Carbon, Carter, Custer, Fallon, Powder River and Rosebud.
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The funding is part of $50 million in block grants the U.S. Department of Agriculture made available for drought-stricken counties in 20 states.
Eligibility was determined using U.S. Drought Monitor maps, which are prepared at the National Drought Mitigation Center in Nebraska.
"We agreed to take on the task of administering the grants, using federal guidelines, because it is the fastest way to get the assistance to eligible producers," Peterson said.
The state Agriculture Department is working with the governor's Office, the MSU Extension Service and the USDA Farm Service Agency to establish criteria and methods for sign-up and distribution.
Details will be available early next month at MSU Extension Service offices and at tribal extension offices in the affected counties.