* Villages can apply to get 500,000 baht for programmes
* Rural areas have been hit by drought, poor crop prices (Add details, context)
BANGKOK, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Thailand's cabinet approved a 35 billion baht ($972.22 million) programme aimed at boosting the struggling rural economy, its deputy commerce minister said on Tuesday.
Villages can apply to receive up to 500,000 baht each to improve farm production and efficiency, according to a statement by the government. Funds would be disbursed over six months once approved, it said.
On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the programme was intended to strengthen the grassroots economy.
Deputy Commerce Minister Suvit Maesincee said the 35 billion baht would go toward "building and developing communities".
Helping the rural economy, which has been hit hard by drought and low crop prices, is a priority for the military government, which took power following a May 2014 coup.
The government this month announced measures to aid desperate rubber farmers, who have been hurt by a fall in global prices.
Keen not to shut out Thailand's largely rural electorate, it has also approved subsidies for rice farmers.
Since taking power, the military has been unable to move Southeast Asia's economy forward as pivotal exports and domestic demand remain sluggish.
In September, the government approved injecting 136 billion baht into rural areas for loans to farmers and funding for small projects.
$1 = 35.9100 baht Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Writing by Pairat Temphairojana; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Richard Borsuk