Governor Steve Beshear and Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer have announced an $8.15 million program to help Kentucky farmers affected by last year’s drought.

The Kentucky Agricultural Relief Effort (K.A.R.E.) will be funded with master tobacco settlement money and administered by the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy (GOAP).

“Farming is a challenging way to make a living, and some years it’s more stressful than others, but because of the $8.15 million investment in the K.A.R.E. program, we will be able to reach out to farmers whose crops were devastated,” said Gov. Beshear.

“Farmers need help developing alternative water sources that will head off the impacts of future droughts; assistance with renovating and re-establishing pastures and hay fields; along with equipment and facilities that will help improve forage quality.”

Commissioner Farmer thanked Governor Beshear and Roger Thomas, executive director of GOAP, for their efforts to craft the K.A.R.E. program.

“I am optimistic about the future of Kentucky agriculture,” Commissioner Farmer said. “Better days are ahead of us. This announcement will help insure that all of Kentucky agriculture can get there together.”

K.A.R.E. is designed to help producers pay for on-farm improvements and investments that will help reduce the impact of the drought. Farmers may seek funding for water projects, such as drilling, piping or hook-up to municipal water systems; forage projects, and other projects such as fencing, feeding equipment, animal waste handling equipment and crop insurance.

Producers may apply to be reimbursed for eligible expenses retroactive to Dec. 1, 2007. Guidelines are posted on the GOAP Web site, http://agpolicy.ky.gov.

One K.A.R.E. fund totals $6.15 million, of which $4.1 million is from county tobacco settlement funds and $2.05 million is from state tobacco settlement funds. Producers must submit applications for funding to their respective county K.A.R.E. program administrators by Aug. 1. The chief executive officer of the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, which oversees Kentucky’s tobacco settlement funds, will award K.A.R.E. funding for eligible projects.

Counties may apply for funding from a separate $2 million statewide pool after they have committed all of their county tobacco settlement money. Funds from the $2 million pool will be allocated based on a formula measuring the agricultural impact of last summer’s drought.

Production and yields for corn, soybeans, tobacco, hay and winter wheat were significantly lower in 2007 than in 2006 because of the drought and the April 2007 freeze. The effects of the drought on Kentucky pastures caused many livestock producers to send more animals to market than usual last year. A continuing shortage of hay due to the drought, along with record high prices for feed, has resulted in a steep increase in farmers’ input costs.