Hay East participants are neighbours helping neighbours
By Debra Pretty-Straathof OFA
September 14, 2012 - The popular “Hay West” program that began in 2002 when eastern Canadian farmers sent hay to drought-ridden Western Canada is making a comeback. This time, our western neighbours are reciprocating, and naming the program “Hay East.”
Hay East will go a long way in addressing the emergency situation on many eastern Canadian farms. Ontario alone has 19 prescribed drought regions that have been drastically impacted by this summer’s drought. Farmers in Ontario are working to determine final yields, and they are seeking the advice of agencies such as Agricorp on how to recover loss. Some crop write-offs have already occurred, and officials expect many more before the harvest is complete.
For Ontario livestock farmers, the situation is urgent because there is a critical feed shortage for livestock. This summer, fields in many areas produced no crop worth harvesting. Pastures for grazing livestock dried up early in the season, and stored grain and forage supplies will not last through the winter. Some herd liquidations have already occurred.
Western Canadian farm organizations are hard at work encouraging farmers there to proceed with a second cut of hay to send east. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is working with the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) and a host of organizations across the country to organize the finer details of identifying eastern Canadian farmers in need, as well as helping to coordinate collection, transportation and distribution from one end of the country to another. And, we’re looking for help.
The OFA joined Hay East organizers in launching the program at the recent federal, provincial and territorial agriculture ministers’ meetings in Whitehorse. Farm organizations are pressing government to provide funds through the federal AgriRecovery program to assist with hay transportation from the Prairies.
In the coming weeks OFA will be working with program organizers to assess the need for forage in Eastern Canada. Organizers are working on setting up a website and toll free phone number to coordinate donations from farmers with hay to spare, and those in need of support. Ontario farmers in need of forage must apply to the program for consideration. Farmers in need can email firstname.lastname@example.org to be contacted about the application process once the program is finalized, or they can visit www.ofa.on.ca for a link to the program’s website once it is available.
The Hay East mission is to help farmers sustain livestock through the winter, and there are many people working very hard to make that happen. The OFA is grateful for the way farmers in Western Canada are prepared to assist their eastern counterparts in this time of need. We will continue to look to the federal and provincial governments, the railways, corporate partners and other stakeholders to show their generosity to help sustain the Ontario livestock herd through this winter.