The North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association has donated $5,000 to help state farmers cope with a massive hay shortage brought on by extreme drought, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler has announced.

The funding will assist the Ag Partners Hay Relief Program, which the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services set up to help cattle farmers defray a portion of the cost of transporting hay from outside the state to their farms.

“Nobody knows better than the Cattlemen’s Association how badly our cattle farmers are suffering because of the drought,” Troxler said. “The association’s contribution will boost our efforts to help these farmers feed their animals through the winter.”

NCCA President Ronnie Hammonds said 2007 was a rough year for many cattle producers. “We wish we could do more and we encourage any businesses or groups that can give to the Ag Partners Program to please participate,” he said. “There are a lot of cattle producers having a hard time finding forages to get through the winter, and the only option for many is to truck in hay from western states.”

Bundy Plyler, executive director of the association, said the group’s executive committee viewed the contribution as seed money. “We will begin an aggressive campaign to raise more funds for this much needed program,” he said.

With short hay reserves all across the nation, many producers have culled cow numbers to the brink of selling out and need out-of-state forages to get their core herd of breeding animals through the winter, Plyler said. “It’s now or never if we are going to save many of our producers,” he said.

Farmers interested in buying hay or applying for Ag Partners funds should log on to www.ncagr.com/HayAlert or call 1-866-506-6222. Ag Partners provides farmers with cost-share assistance of up to $500 for a load of hay moved from out of state. Farmers may seek cost-share funds for up to three loads.

Organizations and businesses interested in contributing to Ag Partners may contact Chrissy Lucas at (919) 733-7125, ext. 255, or christina.lucas@ncmail.net.