Statewide hay relief efforts end
With first cuttings of hay occurring across the state and rainfall raising soil moisture levels, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has been able to demobilize its hay relief programs.
“While many pastures still need renovation, and farmers still have a lot of recovering left to do, there are many encouraging signs that farms are on their way to returning to normal feeding operations,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.
Department staff logged more than 16,000 hours and 50,000 miles working on drought and hay assistance since last summer, Troxler said.
The Hay Alert Web site, which helps match hay buyers and sellers, had 290,000 visits from August to early May, and the Hay Alert hotline fielded 5,200 calls. The hotline has been deactivated, but the Web site is available year-round at www.ncagr.com/hayalert.
The department operated several transportation cost-share assistance programs to help livestock owners with the cost of trucking in hay to feed their animals during the drought. These programs paid a total of about $550,000 to farmers and ranchers.
In early December, the department received approval from the Council of State to use up to $3.5 million as a revolving credit line to purchase and transport hay to North Carolina, where it could be resold to farmers for the cost of the hay and transportation.
The department sold hay at its research stations in Waynesville, Laurel Springs, Salisbury, Oxford and Kinston and at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market in Colfax. The locations were chosen because of their capability for storing hay and their proximity to areas with large populations of livestock.
The Emergency Hay Program, as it was known, spent nearly $532,000 to bring in more than 2,700 tons of hay from other U.S. states and Canada.
Troxler said the hay relief effort was successful because so many agencies, nonprofit groups, companies and citizens worked together. “This effort really went beyond our department,” he said. “It’s been amazing to see the level of teamwork we achieved. For example, with the help of Cooperative Extension and N.C. State University, we informed countless livestock owners about alternative forages. We helped spur the movement of about 35,000 bales of corn fodder and soybean hay across the state.
“Through all these efforts and teamwork, we were able to prevent a major animal welfare crisis,” he said.