Minnesota company, Plains farm aid group set up hay convoy
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Minnesota towing and hauling company is teaming up with a Plains farm aid nonprofit this weekend to ship tons of hay to about a dozen drought-stricken ranchers in North Dakota.
Beyer Towing in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and Farm Rescue have organized a convoy of 14 semi-loads of hay on Saturday and another half-dozen on Sunday. The cattle feed being sold at a reduced price will be trucked about 225 miles from Rothsay, Minnesota, to Menoken, North Dakota.
Justin Beyer, part of the family owned towing operation, arranged for the hay from Minnesota farmers and also for the trucking.
"We were just spit-balling, talking about it at lunch one time, and all of a sudden we've got 20 loads of hay going to North Dakota," said Beyer, who will drive one of the trucks himself.
North Dakota-based Farm Rescue provides services including crop planting and harvesting and hay-hauling for farmers in need in both Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, eastern Montana and Nebraska. The nonprofit is providing two trucks for the convoy and paying for fuel, with the help of a $50,000 anonymous donation.
"It's just a collection of efforts to get the hay over," Farm Rescue Operations Director Carol Wielenga said. "This is a huge financial burden off the farmers. They can either buy more hay with the money they're saving or not sell off so many cattle."
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows 63 percent of North Dakota in some form of drought. Nearly one-fourth of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories. Many ranchers have been forced to sell off cattle because they have no hay crop or can't afford to buy hay with demand pushing prices to as high as double the normal cost.
State officials this week approved $1.5 million in aid to help North Dakota ranchers with hay-hauling costs. Farm Rescue also has been helping ranchers in the region as donations allow.
"We have about 100 applications in, and about 150 ranchers have contacted us," Wielenga said. "We're just getting started."