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Ranchers Unfazed by Hay Shortage

May 20, 1999

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) _ In June 1997, dry pastures and little hope for a decent hay crop forced Ron Stepanek to sell off part of his cattle herd. Two years later, the McKenzie County rancher’s fortunes have reversed.

``We’ve had a fair amount of moisture up here,″ he said. ``We should have a good hay crop. And the pastures look good. We can go quite a ways on that.″

As farmers and ranchers prepare for this year’s first cutting of hay, shortages in previous summers are distant memories. Plentiful rainfall this spring should ensure enough alfalfa and other hay crops in most parts of the state, said Wade Moser, executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association.

``The more (producers) can get piled up, the more insurance they’ve got if things do dry out,″ he said.

That happened in 1997, prompting the federal government to open up Conservation Reserve Program land to haying, and last summer, when a shortage of hay and pasture in north-central North Dakota prompted Gov. Ed Schafer to open no-mow areas along certain highways to haying.

In Divide County, where producers typically struggle to find high-quality hay and pasture, heavy rainfall this spring has been a blessing, said Aaron Jacobson, who ranches near Crosby.

``Last year was terrible _ we didn’t get any rain until the end of June and the hay crop was almost nonexistent. There were a fair amount of cows sold just because there was no pasture,″ Jacobson said. This year, ``the pastures up here will be tremendous unless we really burn up.″

In parts of the state that have received too much rain, many ranchers are relying on hay left over from last year to get them by until flooded fields dry out.

``Our alfalfa is all under water,″ said Rose Bailey, who farms with her husband, Vernon, near Denbigh in McHenry County. ``And we haven’t been able to get to the pastures for a while.″


MIAMI (AP) _ The Florida Department of Agriculture plans to hire an army of inspectors to locate even the smallest trace of citrus canker, the deadly plant disease now rampant in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

This means hiring as many as 1,100 people to help carry out the order of scouring citrus groves and homeowners’ yards in search of the scourge.

``If we don’t do this, Dade will no longer have any citrus trees,″ said Terry McElroy, spokesman for Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford.

Growers are anxious for the new inspectors to begin working.

``If we don’t eradicate this canker, our children and our children’s children are going to have a very difficult time ever growing citrus in Florida,″ said Miami-Dade lime grower Craig Wheeling.

The Florida Legislature allocated $17.7 million to fighting citrus canker. The federal government matched that sum, allowing the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to increase its work force from 340 field inspectors to 1,500, plus support staff.

The intensive program is aimed at stopping the spread of the disease, which threatens the state’s $8.5 billion citrus industry and the nearly 5 million backyard citrus trees in both counties.

In Miami-Dade County, the extra inspectors will evaluate the condition of thousands of acres of limes, carambola (star fruit), avocados and other tropical fruit.

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