Farmers Make ‘Hay Days’ While States Seek Federal Aid
Undated (AP) _ Farmers across the nation stacked hay in trucks and boxcars Thursday for cattle ranchers in the parched Southeast, where officials seek comprehensive federal disaster aid for the worst drought in a century.
Hay sells for $60 a ton in southern Idaho, where volunteer farmers descended on loading sites to give away about 1,400 tons donated in a state- sponsored ″Hay Day″ on Wednesday.
″I’ve always donated and I guess I always will,″ said Chuck Rekow, a farmer from Emmet. ″If I was in the same fix I wouldn’t mind some help myself.″ A second ″Hay Day″ is scheduled Tuesday.
Agriculture commissioners from seven states, facing $2.3 billion in crop and forestry losses, headed for Washington to meet Friday with Secretary of Agriculture Richard Lyng and their congressional delegations.
Lyng signed a declaration Thursday that designated all 159 Georgia counties agricultural disaster areas, bringing to nearly 200 the number of counties on the list. The declaration means farmers in the affected areas can qualify for low-interest loans and subsidized feed and re-seeding programs.
The commissioners from North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Maryland and South Carolina will present new proposals to aid drought-stricken farmers, said Reggie Hall, an aide to South Carolina commissioner Les Tindal.
In addition to crop losses from northern Florida to southern Pennsylvania, a heat wave in the region has been blamed for 117 deaths.
The House of Representatives, voting 418-0, sent the Senate a bill Wednesday that would donate government grain to areas where less than a three- day supply of livestock feed is available. The Senate has approved similar legislation.
The House bill provides for USDA payment of up to half the cost of emergency feed, haying or grazing of federal lands, and transportation of hay from surplus producing areas.
Officials said 40 Union Pacific Railroad boxcars rolled into southern Idaho on Thursday to haul hay to Memphis, Tenn., at no charge. From there, the hay would be hauled to Atlanta by Norfolk Southern Railroad, again at no charge.
Idaho officials hoped the hay train would roll this weekend.
In South Carolina, extension service officials said publicity has eased a shortage of transportation for donated hay. ″We were averaging about 35 ‘marriages’ - that’s donors and shippers - before, but we had 130 Tuesday and more than 100 Wednesday,″ said spokesman Tom Lollis.
Hay Central, the state center that has routed nearly 5,500 tons of hay to South Carolina farmers, said the operation has become an international effort.
″We’ve even gotten a call from Canada where farmers are trying to arrange to get 76 truckloads across the border into Maine so it can be picked up,″ said extension service director Elwyn Deal.
The effort could continue at its present level for weeks due to big donations from businesses, but Deal cautioned that the problem will linger into winter.
Florida Gov. Bob Graham asked for federal disaster declarations for 12 more northern Florida counties Thursday, bringing the total in his state to 21, with some expecting a harvest 30 percent below normal.
At least 26 Tennessee counties have lost more than 40 percent of their crops, resulting in damage well into the millions, said Orman West, program specialist for the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.
Estimates of damage to agriculture and forestry include $533.6 million in Georgia, $750 million in Alabama, $400 million in North Carolina, $379 million in South Carolina, $118 million in Maryland, $61.5 million in Virginia, $58 million in southern Pennsylvania, $40 million in Delaware, and $15.5 million in West Virginia.
Since July 1, the heat has been blamed for 29 deaths in Georgia; 21 in Arkansas; an estimated 15 in Mississippi; seven in Tennessee; six in Texas; five each in South Carolina and Oklahoma; four each in Alabama, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina; three in Louisiana; two each in Kentucky and Florida; and one each in Virginia and Michigan.