Exceptional drought, the most severe category, covers 3.25 percent of Arkansas, an area including all of Conway, most of Van Buren and parts of Faulkner, Pope and Perry counties, according to Thursday’s U.S. Drought Monitor.

“This is going to put some people out of business,” Hank Chaney, Faulkner County Extension staff chair, said Thursday.

Arkansas’ livestock producers have had to sell cattle they can no longer feed as drought shrivels their pastures and hay supplies. Nearly 350 ranchers attended a drought management conference in Pope County on Tuesday to learn about tax and production options for their operations.

Even row crop growers with irrigation were being affected. Those dependent on surface ponds for irrigation were seeing those impoundments run dry.

On Wednesday, the USDA declared 69 of Arkansas’ 75 counties to be disaster areas, making farmers and ranchers eligible for financial assistance from the Farm Service Agency.

Extreme drought, the second most severe classification, covers more than 70 percent of the state, nearly doubling its area from the previous week. The rest of the state is either severe or moderate.

For more information on coping with drought, visit Arkansas Drought Resources or contact your county Extension office.