From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
As we enter what is traditionally known as the “dry” time of the year in North Carolina, our state remains embroiled in a severe-to-exceptional drought depending on the area of the state. Many crops have burned up in the fields, victims of the weather; and livestock farmers are struggling to find feed to survive the winter.
It has been one of the most challenging years I can remember. Quite honestly there seems to be little to be optimistic about this season, but I have been encouraged by the spirit of cooperation we have encountered as we have worked to help livestock producers find alternative feed and help corn and soybean growers salvage something from their crops.
Having been a farmer most of my life, I know when the going gets tough, the farm community pulls together. And I have seen example after example of that this year.
Because this drought is so widespread and affects so many different crops, we have tried to facilitate ways for farmers to help farmers through this crisis. Through the cooperation of many state agencies and groups, including N.C. State University, we have encouraged corn and soybean farmers to bale corn stubble and soybeans that were not going to be harvested, for sale to livestock producers.
We organized a number of workshops across the state to explain to farmers how to supplement these alternative feeds to sustain their cattle and how to bale these materials.
We are operating our Hay Alert hotline to try to help match farmers looking for feed with those who have hay and alternative feeds for sale, and we continue to look for partners for transportation and other expenses.
This has been a rallying effort and plenty of people have stepped up to the plate.
In early September, I was pleased to join the Golden LEAF Foundation in announcing the Golden Hay Relief program created by a $500,000 donation from the group. This cost-share program will help offset the costs of transporting baled corn stalks and soybean hay across the state.
In addition, we also announced the Ag Partners program that would help assist with the costs of transporting hay in from outside the state. The Ag Partners program was made possible from donations from corporations statewide.
Eligible farmers can participate in both programs. Please see the article on page 1 of the Agricultural Review for more details. Readers can also find out more on both of these programs by clicking on the drought information link on our Web site at www.ncagr.com/drought/.
There is a lot of useful information on this site including links to federal assistance programs, a list of counties covered by the federal disaster declaration, current crop reports and a link to find buyers and sellers of hay and alternative feeds.
I encourage you to check this page frequently as new information is added as it becomes available.
Our entire industry is suffering under this drought right now, and unfortunately it is a regional situation as well. That compounds the challenge of locating hay for animals.
The drought has caused an estimated $80 million in losses of hay, pasture and forage alone in our state. North Carolina livestock producers estimated being 800,000 bales of feed short this winter.
We have had to move quickly to access the resources we do have available, such as corn stubble and soybeans. I genuinely appreciate the cooperation farmers have shown in their willingness to try something different. I have seen baled corn in fields in many parts of the state, a testament to the fact that farmers are doing everything they can to stay in business. We’re all in this boat together and as we have seen there are ways we can help one another.
I also can’t say enough about the many public and private partnerships that have been deepened through these efforts. We intend to continue to do everything we can to help farmers, and I will be updating you on other efforts as we move forward.