FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUESDAY, AUG. 28, 2007
Brian Long, director
NCDA&CS Public Affairs
(919) 733-4216, ext. 242
Ag Commissioner Troxler: State facing hay emergency;
creativity needed to help farmers cope
He encourages farmers to bale corn and soybean fodder for feed
RALEIGH – With livestock farmers facing a “hay emergency” because of the drought, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler today encouraged corn and soybean farmers to consider baling their stalks and plants for use as animal feed.
Reports from farmers across the state indicate that as many as 800,000 round bales of hay will be needed to make up the shortfall and feed livestock through the winter. Compared with the drought of 2002, the magnitude of the problem this year is much greater, Troxler said.
“There’s no doubt we are seeing a hay emergency in North Carolina,” he said. “When we had a drought five years ago, we were able to help farmers meet their need for 10,000 bales of hay. But that drought mainly affected only a portion of the state. This time the whole state is affected, and we’re talking about a demand that’s 80 times greater. It’s a pretty daunting task to try to ship in that much hay, so we’ve got to be creative in helping farmers cope.
“Corn and soybean growers also are suffering from the drought. Baling corn stubble and soybeans for hay can give these growers a marketable option for their damaged crops while providing our livestock producers with additional feed options,” Troxler said.
Farmers who bale these feed alternatives can list them for sale on the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Hay Alert Web site. Hay Alert allows farmers to place free listings seeking or selling hay. It also has a section for finding or offering hay transportation services. The site is available at www.ncagr.com/HayAlert. Listings are searchable by county and state.
Farmers also can use the Hay Alert service by calling toll free at 1-866-506-6222 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Operators will take callers’ information and add it to the Web site or search the database for them.
“We’re serving as a facilitator, working to help farmers help each other,” Troxler said. “We’re also talking with our state and federal partners, other states and industry groups that might be able to help with this enormous issue facing our farmers.”
The department and N.C. Cooperative Extension have organized a series of workshops focused on alternative feeds. Workshops in western counties have dealt with the nutritional value of baled cornstalks and soybean hay and how to feed them to cattle. Workshops in the East have focused on how to bale these crops for fodder.
Troxler acknowledged that farmers might be apprehensive about baling cornstalks and soybean plants. “They might not have baling equipment or think it’s too much trouble to try to gather this material,” he said. “But livestock farmers in our western counties might be willing – even eager – to bring their equipment to your farm and bale this fodder. That’s the kind of cooperation and creativity we’re trying to foster.”
If farmers consider using a damaged crop, such as corn and soybeans, for other uses and the crop is covered by insurance, they need to talk with their insurance agent first, Troxler said. “You need to take steps to protect the integrity of your crop insurance claims and to remain eligible for a potential loss payment,” he said.
Troxler also cautioned farmers to take precautions to guard their livestock against nitrates, aflatoxin or pesticides that could be in forage material and could harm their animals. The NCDA&CS Food and Drug Protection Division offers free testing of forage for nitrates and aflatoxin.
If farmers purchase hay from outside their home county, they also need to take precautions against transporting noxious weeds or fire ants in forage material.
Information about these issues, as well as a schedule of workshops, is available at the department’s Ag Drought Resource Information Page, www.ncagr.com/drought.