Nonprofit brings flood-stricken Nebraska ranchers hay help
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A farm aid nonprofit is launching an effort to deliver donated hay to ranchers in flood-stricken Nebraska, resurrecting a program first used nearly two years ago to help cattle producers facing drought conditions in the Upper Midwest.
North Dakota-based Farm Rescue is seeking volunteer drivers and donations of hay and money for what it calls “Operation Hay Lift” to help Nebraska ranchers dealing with widespread flooding after a massive late-winter storm.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those suffering from this natural disaster,” Bill Gross, founder and president of Farm Rescue, said Tuesday.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau estimates that farm and ranch losses in that state could reach $1 billion. The amount of hay needed hasn’t yet been determined, according to the Nebraska Cattlemen rancher group, which also has launched a disaster relief fund.
“Some folks are still battling floodwaters and have not been able to access their hay to determine what was lost,” spokeswoman Talia Goes said. “However, we have heard from some folks that nearly 50 to 100 percent of their hay has been ruined or taken with the raging waters. Also, many folks will battle damaged hay and pasture fields from the water and the debris.”
The first Operation Hay Lift was launched in July 2017 in the midst of devastating drought in the Upper Midwest. The program lasted 10 months, with 75 volunteer truckers hauling nearly 300 semitrailer-loads of hay to 154 ranch families in the Dakotas and Montana. More than 10,000 large, round hay bales were hauled a total of more than 200,000 miles, according to Farm Rescue spokesman Dan Erdmann.
Farm Rescue provides free physical labor for farmers and ranchers dealing with an injury, illness or a natural disaster in six Plains states — North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Montana. The nonprofit’s services include crop planting and harvesting, haying, and livestock feeding. It has helped nearly 600 farm families since starting in 2006 and relies on volunteers from around the country, donations and corporate sponsors.