BISMARCK, N.D. — Drought-stricken North Dakota ranchers looking for state help with paying hay-hauling costs are running out of time to apply.

Monday is the deadline for the hay transportation aid program approved by the state Emergency Commission in late August. The group made $1.5 million available to reimburse eligible ranchers for personal and commercial hay-hauling expenses.

Initially, the program was for expenses incurred between June 1 and Oct. 20, and the application deadline was Nov. 3. Late last month the state Agriculture Department extended the hauling cutoff date to Nov. 6 and the application deadline to Nov. 13.

“After numerous requests, the deadline was extended two weeks to allow producers to finish purchasing and hauling winter hay stock,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said.

The program is in response to the worst drought in decades. Alfalfa hay production in North Dakota is down 30 percent from last year, and production of all other hay is down 43 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That means many ranchers have to haul in hay, often from long distances.

Western and central North Dakota were mired in drought throughout the summer, with conditions reaching the extreme and even exceptional categories in some areas. Those conditions have eased this fall, with only about one-third of the state remaining in drought, and most areas seeing only moderate drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map.

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