Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler has announced that Golden Hay Relief, a program that assisted drought-stricken livestock owners with the cost of transporting North Carolina-grown hay and forage to their farms, is launching a second phase.

The program is open to owners of cattle, sheep, goats and equine. It is funded by a $500,000 grant the Golden LEAF Foundation awarded to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services last year.

The first phase of the program covered shipments of North Carolina-grown hay, corn stover and soybean fodder delivered to farms between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2007. The program reimbursed livestock owners up to 50 percent of their transportation costs for those shipments. The reimbursements used about $238,000 of the $500,000 grant.

In the second phase of the program, the department will use the remaining grant money for reimbursements on shipments of in-state hay and alternative forage delivered this year between Jan. 1 and April 30. The department will also accept applications from livestock owners who did not apply for assistance during phase one.

“Golden Hay Relief helped facilitate the movement of almost 35,000 bales of hay, corn stover and soybean fodder across North Carolina last year,” Troxler said. “But the forage needs have continued, and it just made sense to use the remaining grant money to help these farmers and ranchers with their transportation costs. I want to thank Golden LEAF for recognizing this continuing need and approving our request to expand the program.”

Application deadline is May 1. Because reimbursements will be made on a first-come, first-served basis while funds last, livestock owners should submit applications quickly, Troxler said.

Applications and eligibility criteria are available online at www.ncagr.com/hayalert/goldenhay.htm or through the toll-free Hay Alert hotline at (866) 506-6222 weekdays.

Livestock owners who have purchased hay grown outside North Carolina can apply for transportation cost-share assistance through the Ag and Equine Partners Program. Information is available at www.ncagr.com/hayalert or by calling the hotline.