The Bluffton 4-H Beef Club is reaching out past Alberta borders to help drought-stricken farmers in Ontario.
The club has raised $1,000 to support HayEast 2012, a program underway to help address the urgent need for hay on many eastern Canadian farms.
Assistant club leader Andrea Falt said the money is to go toward transportation costs.
“It’s a very stressful time for them (the farmers) and the least we can do is try and help them out,” said Falt. “Transportation costs for the hay are astronomical.”
She noted in 2002 farmers from the East pitched in to send much needed hay to their counterparts in Western Canada who were suffering from a critical feed shortage.
This year it’s payback time.
Falt and Rimbey-area farmer Dan Skeels, who is also an assistant leader with the Bluffton 4-H Club, are appealing to farmers to donate at least a few hay bales to the HayEast program.
“We are appealing to local farmers to band together and donate as much hay as they can. Even 10 bales can make a difference. It’s all about farmers helping farmers,” said Falt.
The hay shortage in Ontario is due to a late frost followed by a severe drought that prevented hay fields from recovering. The province has identified 19 regions that have been drastically affected by this summer’s drought. Farmers in these regions have requested more than 70,000 bales of hay to sustain livestock through the winter.
HayEast 2012 is a partnership involving farm organizations across Canada. The program is similar to the HayWest program of 2002 when thousands of eastern Canadian farmers sent forages to western Canada to help drought stricken farmers.
“We remember what that hay meant to farmers here,” said Falt.
Norm Hall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan and HayEast 2012 organizer said the biggest challenge of the program is the cost of transportation.
However, HayEast received a major boost in November when the Ontario and federal governments committed, on a cost-shared basis, an immediate $500,000 to start moving the thousands of bales of hay that have been pledged by farmers across Alberta and Saskatchewan.
They have also agreed to match individual and corporate cash donations made to HayEast up to $2.5 million.
To date more than 30 truckloads of hay have been delivered and dozens more are on their way. The target for Western Canada is 50,000 bales.
Falt said the location where the hay is delivered in Ontario is determined by a lottery.
Farmers who wish to take part in the program may contact Andrea Falt at 1-780-586-2820 or Dan Skeels at403-843-4756.
Donations to the HayEast 2012 program can be made at any Scotiabank branch across Canada using account number 203620149616. Cheques made payable to HayEast may be mailed to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture office, Ontario AgriCentre, 100 Stone Road West, Suite 206 Guelph, ON NIG 5L3. Charitable receipts will be issued for donations.
For more information about the HayEast program check out the website at www.hayeast2012.com