Even if rains were to come soon, some of the effects of the current drought in North Carolina would be likely to stretch throughout the winter. Hay and forage will be short in many areas when the weather turns cold. And, since the drought is widespread, farmers will incur high transportation charges when they find hay to purchase – if they can find it.
Some farm support groups are now coming to the rescue, however. The Golden LEAF Foundation has established a $500,000 grant, the Golden Hay Relief Program, to help farmers move hay and forage produced inside the state to their farms. Another program, The Ag Partners Hay Relief Program, is funded by farm credit associations across the state to the tune of another $11,000 in donations.
"The Golden LEAF Foundation will provide emergency transportation assistance to move an estimated 300,000 bales of forage from Eastern N.C. growers to livestock owners around the state so that these farms can stay in business," said Rick Holder, chairman of Golden LEAF's Board of Directors. "The project will benefit growers with a market for crops badly damaged from the drought and provide opportunities for N.C. trucking operations."
According to N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler, the effects of the drought are already severe.
"The drought has caused an estimated $80 million in losses of hay, pasture and forage in our state," Troxler said. "We are working feverishly to cope with this hay emergency and prevent a mass exodus of livestock farmers. Corn and soybean growers have shown an eagerness to help livestock producers. These transportation cost-share programs will make it more cost-effective for crop farmers to help livestock farmers keep their animals alive through the winter."
Eligible livestock farmers who wish to participate in the Golden Hay Relief Program will be reimbursed for a percentage of their costs. To be considered, they must submit an application to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Applications are currently available from www.ncagr.com/HayAlert or by calling 1-866-506-6222. The deadline is Dec. 31. Reimbursement checks will begin to be mailed out in February.
The Ag Partners Hay Relief Program will reimburse farmers 50 cents per mile up to $300 for hay moved into North Carolina from out of state. It is funded by Carolina Farm Credit, Cape Fear Farm Credit and East Carolina Farm Credit. So far, this program has received $11,000 in donations, and there is a likelihood of more funding to come.
For more information call 1-866-6222 or visit the website www.ncagr.com/HayAlert/AgPartners.htm.
Learn more about the Golden Hay Relief Program at www.goldenleaf.org.