A drought has many consequences.
There’s increased stress among farmers, decreased crop production overall and less hay for the livestock, to name three immediate issues. The easternmost end of North Dakota, including Wahpeton, is currently not affected by conditions ranging from abnormally dry (D0) to exceptional drought (D4).
While Richland County is currently not affected by severe drought (D2), it has been reported in the western ends of Ransom and Sargent counties. Much of western North Dakota is currently affected by extreme drought (D3), with large pockets of Mountrail, Ward, Stark, Morton and Hettinger counties experiencing exceptional drought.
“Once we started hearing from producers about how severe the drought was, we knew we had to help in some way,” said Matt Schaller, president of Ag Community Relief.
Ag Community Relief is currently arranging a large-scale hay donation convoy to North Dakota. They are fundraising, enlisting volunteers and seeking donations for what is being called a hay lottery. Collected hay will be distributed in semi-load lots following the first drawing in early September.
“If additional donations are taken after that date, more drawings will occur,” the North Dakota Department of Agriculture stated in a press release. “Drawings will occur in two age categories: ages 35 and under, plus ages 36 and above. Producers who are selected will be responsible for arranging hay transportation from the collection site near North Dakota State University.”
Hay will be available for livestock producers in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana who meet the following criteria:
• Filling out and submitting the necessary application, available at www.nd.gov/ndda, by Thursday, Aug. 31
• Being from a county affected by a wildfire or experiencing severe drought, extreme drought or exceptional drought
• Owning at least 25 animal unit equivalents of state-specific livestock (eligible livestock and a description of animal unit equivalents may be found directly on each state’s application)
Assistance in filling out the hay lottery application is available by calling 701-328-4764 or 1-844-642-4752.
Donations of hay or transportation of the hay to Fargo may be made by calling the Drought Hotline at 701-425-8454.
The hay lottery is organized by both the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and North Dakota State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station.
“We are so appreciative of their efforts,” said North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. “We are also grateful to NDSU for providing the space and staffing to store and distribute the donated hay. Without these two entities, this would not be possible.”
Ag Community Relief is dedicated to aiding active farmers and ranchers who experience devastation across the United States. The Lapeer, Michigan-based organization, also known as “The Red Cross for farmers,” assembles volunteers and donations to help reduce suffering.
“We are here to help them get back to where they were before their disaster struck,” states Ag Community Relief’s website.
North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana having large swaths of land affected by drought and wildfires, made them natural benefactors for the hay lottery, Schaller explained.
“It’s just too hard to pick and choose who receives what hay we can bring,” he said. “This program will give everyone a little hope. It will let them know that farmers across America are thinking of them. We really hope to see hay come in from all over the Midwest to help these folks in their time of need.”
The hay lottery is one small way NDSU and the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station can help, according to Greg Lardy, head of NDSU’s Department of Animal Sciences.
Support is just as strong in South Dakota and Montana.
“I appreciate Ag Community Relief, all the producers providing hay and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture for making this program possible,” said South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Mike Jaspers.
Montana Department of Agriculture Director Ben Thomas called the people who donate “the unsung heroes of the disaster response.”
“They are a reminder of how the worst of times can bring out the best in people,” Thomas continued. “We are proud and grateful to join with Ag Community Relief and our friends in North and South Dakota to get more resources to those affected.”