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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Craig Thomas, Mike Enzi and Representative Barbara Cubin, all R-Wyo., said relief is on the way for ranchers in Wyoming suffering from severe drought conditions.

Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman announced that payments from the USDA's Livestock Compensation Program (LCP) will begin today for cattle, sheep, goat and buffalo producers in counties that have received a primary disaster designation due to drought. Producers can choose to receive assistance for either 2001 or 2002, whichever year they have experienced greater loss.

"For several years, Wyoming's ranchers have been marred by drought. The livelihood of so many of our producers has been affected and we must do whatever we can to help and assist. We can't make it rain but we can begin to help by providing funding through this USDA program," Thomas said.

"For ranchers devastated by drought every penny counts. These payments won't solve all our producers' problems, but it will certainly help," said Enzi. "Ranchers have spent many a waking hour wondering how they will survive this drought and though it may have been a long time coming, the check is in the mail."

"At the drought summit I hosted last week, I heard from ranchers and farmers from Wyoming and all over the country that this relief is welcome and much appreciated," said Cubin. "But I also heard that more aid will be necessary if our agricultural community is to survive the drought, and I'm working to see that our ranchers get all the help they need."

Payments will be determined by multiplying the number of eligible animals by their respective payment rate. Types of livestock and payment rates are as follows: adult beef cows and bulls, $18.00/head; sheep and goats, $4.50/head; adult buffalo and beefalo, $18.00/head; stockers, $13.50/head; and adult dairy cows and bulls, $31.50/head.

The delegation said that direct payments are available to eligible livestock producers only in counties that have received primary disaster designations due to drought in 2001 or 2002. Counties with primary designations pending as of Sept. 19 will still be eligible to participate in the program once they are approved.

The USDA announced on Sept. 19 that $752 million in discretionary funds from the Department of Agriculture will be provided for the LCP.

For more information about the LCP and other drought and weather-related information, please visit the USDA's website (www.usda.gov).