The federal Livestock Assistance Grant Program, part of a national drought disaster assistance program for farmers and ranchers, will be administered in Texas by the Texas Department of Agriculture. The state will receive $16.1 million to help livestock producers cover losses incurred due to the ongoing drought.

The funds, which Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs said “will provide a much-needed infusion of dollars to Texas producers,” will be available to livestock producers in 216 eligible counties who suffered a loss of forage production because of the 2006 drought. The assistance may cover the costs of lost forage, supplemental feeding, relocating livestock to new pastures or emergency water supplies. Payments are limited to $10,000 and can’t exceed the amount of lost forage production and related losses.

“Though we have not yet received an official memorandum of understanding or the funds from USDA, we expect to be up and running by the end of September,” says Allen Spelce, a spokesman for TDA. “We’re currently working with Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas, Texas Farm Bureau and Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers’ Association to establish the criteria for distributing the funds.”

Spelce notes that in addition to collaborating with the USDA and Texas producer groups, TDA also is working with Governor Rick Perry’s office to finalize the criteria, announce a sign-up period and distribute the block grant funds as quickly as possible.

More information about the Livestock Assistance Grant Program will be available from TDA in the coming weeks. Call (800) TELL-TDA or go to TDA’s Web site at www.agr.state.tx.us for the latest.