About 40 livestock producers stopped by the Simon Brothers Dairy on Friday morning to hear details of the Livestock Assistance Grant Program, a project grown out of a $2 million disaster fund set by Gov. Mike Beebe.

Butch Calhoun, new Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture, led the meeting, giving specifics on how to apply for grants to help Arkansas ranchers during the recent persistent drought conditions.

Calhoun told the producers that the state is suffering from the worst drought since 1936, and Beebe’s releasing of funds will help cattle, sheep and goat producers, many of whom are finding it difficult to locate, grow or afford hay and other forage for their animals.

To be eligible for the program a producer must have

• Suffered livestock forage production losses from drought from April 1 to Aug. 1, 2012.

• Owned eligible livestock for commercial use as part of a faming operation on Aug. 1

• Owned the livestock claimed for compensation by the program for at least 30 days.

Calhoun said applications will be available through many sources, including the Arkansas Agriculture Department, www.aad.ar.gov or 501-683-4851, University of Arkansas’s Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service county offices, www.uaex.edu, the Arkansas Cattleman’s Association, www.arbeef.org, the Agricultural Council of Arkansas, www.agcouncil.net, Farm Service Agency county offices, Natural Resource Conservation Service district offices, Conservation District offices and Arkansas Farm Bureau county offices, www.arfb.com.

Applicants may also contact the Arkansas Agriculture Department directly at #1 Natural Resources Drive, Little Rock, or by phone at 501-683-4851.

Livestock owners must apply for the disaster aid to the Arkansas Agriculture Department by Wednesday, Aug. 29.

State Rep. Linda Tyler, D-Conway, organized the meeting and invited Calhoun to speak to area ranchers.

“We sometimes forget in our bustling urban Conway setting that we are surrunded by livestock producers and farmers who are seriously hurting,” Tyler said.

Calhoun, a rice and soybean farmer from DesArc, has been Arkansas’s Secretary of Agriculture since July 1, replacing longtime secretary Richard Bell.

Calhoun served eight years in the state house of representatives, was Prairie County Judge for eight years and last served as State Director of the Arkansas Department of Rural Services, a state agency.

(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at becky.harris@thecabin.net and 505-1234.)