Daugaard acts to ease way to send more hay to TexasThrough a coordinated effort of state governments, South Dakota’s farmers are providing relief and much-needed hay to areas in Texas suffering from severe drought.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
Through a coordinated effort of state governments, South Dakota’s farmers are providing relief and much-needed hay to areas in Texas suffering from severe drought.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard has re-issued an executive order, now in effect until Dec. 22, which suspends the permits needed for oversize vehicles transporting baled hay or other livestock feed out of South Dakota.
The order was originally set to expire Oct. 26.
“The need was still there, and frankly it’s probably going to be there for a while,” said South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Walt Bones.
Bones said buyers in Texas have made hay into another cash crop for South Dakota’s farmers.
“Instead of letting the hay deteriorate and rot away, they can get some value out of it and help out those struggling farmers in Texas,” Bones said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s agricultural price report for September shows an average price of $123 a ton for all varieties of hay in South Dakota, a record high for the state but below the national average for the month of $176 a ton, also a record high.
While Bones said most of South Dakota’s hay is coming from farms on the western side of the state, government officials from North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas are all looking into another way to get hay to Texas farmers.
They outlined their proposal in a letter to the USDA last month, saying federal restrictions should be changed to allow owners of Conservation Reserve Program land to donate any hay they mow from their land.
The officials have yet to hear a response from the USDA.
Under federal regulations, owners of CRP land may not profit and are required to burn any hay produced on CRP land because the Farm Service Agency, a branch of the USDA, pays for half the cost of baling.
State Sen. Eldon Nygaard, R-Vermillion, said he is aware of about 300 grass bales awaiting burning that could be put to better use in Texas.
“Wouldn’t this make great federal policy if we shipped it there?” Nygaard said. “It beats burning it.”
The drought conditions in Texas responsible for the livestock feed shortage are the worst in the state’s history.
From October 2010 to September of this year, Texas experienced the least amount of rainfall in a 12-month period since the state began keeping records in 1895.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples said his state’s agricultural losses exceed $5.2 billion.
“As conditions continue to deteriorate, farmers and ranchers are struggling to find forage resources for their livestock,” Staples said in the letter.
“Texas is on track to report the largest annual decline in beef cow numbers in history and record the lowest inventory since 1961.”
Bones said the issue is both an economic and humanitarian one for South Dakota.
“It’s a way to give our ranchers out west another cash crop this year and to help out fellow producers who are struggling,” Bones said. “This program has enabled them to keep their cattle and supply their livelihood.”
He said there is a sense of camaraderie among states where agriculture is vital.
“With the unpredictability of agriculture, who knows, maybe in five years the roles will be totally reversed,” Bones said. “Mother Nature is still in control, and we just try to help each other out.”