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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota's Agriculture Department is expecting hundreds of applications over the next three weeks from drought-stricken ranchers seeking money to help pay the cost of hauling in hay to maintain their herds through winter.

The state Emergency Commission in late August approved $1.5 million in aid to help with hay-hauling costs, in response to the worst drought in decades.

The state has received about 60 applications so far, and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring is expecting as many as 700 by the Nov. 3 deadline.

With hay in short supply, the department also is expanding the program to include straw used for feed.

Straw is typically used for animal bedding, but North Dakota Stockmen's Association Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson says it's commonly used as a livestock feed ingredient during droughts.

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