LITTLE ROCK — About 8,500 ranchers in Arkansas have qualified for relief from damage suffered during the summer drought and $2.1 million in checks will be sent their way soon, Gov. Mike Beebe’s office said Wednesday.

The governor’s office said ranchers will receive checks within the next three weeks through the state Agriculture Department’s Livestock Assistance Grant Program. Beebe transferred $2 million from the Governor’s Disaster Fund to the Agriculture Department to fund the grant program.

"Throughout 2012, cattle, sheep and goat producers have found it difficult to locate, grow or afford hay and other forage for their animals," the governor’s office said in a statement Wednesday. "The Arkansas Agriculture Department is working closely with the Department of Finance and Administration to process and send out the grant checks."