At the urging of Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, an executive order has been signed by Governor Ernie Fletcher that will help Kentucky farmers get much-needed hay to make up for shortages caused by the drought and the April freeze.

“This will make it easier and cheaper for cattle producers, horse farms and others to get the forages they need to feed their herds through the winter,” Commissioner Farmer said.

Commissioner Farmer and members of his senior staff worked with other state officials and representatives of Kentucky Farm Bureau, the University of Kentucky, the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, the Kentucky Dairy Development Council and other agricultural organizations to hammer out details of the executive order.

The order waives size and weight restrictions for vehicles transporting hay and other livestock forages through and into the Commonwealth. The order waives permit fees for oversized or overweight vehicles carrying forages. Carriers are required to obtain all necessary permits for route verification.

Kentucky’s hay crop is expected to be down as much as 50 percent from 2006 production of 6.3 million tons valued at nearly $493 million. Five consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures in early April damaged this year’s first cutting. The drought further limited hay and pasture growth. The hay shortfall has forced some farmers to feed crop residue, buy commercial feeds or sell livestock.

Earlier this month the U.S. Department of Agriculture made low-interest emergency loans available to farmers in all 120 Kentucky counties who are affected by the drought. Commissioner Farmer, who is president of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture, has urged Congress to put drought relief for affected farmers in the farm bill. That would make affected farmers eligible for grants.

The Department has set up a Hay Hotline for producers with hay to sell or looking for hay to buy. To get on one of the lists, call toll-free 1-888-567-9589. The KDA also hosts a Hay Directory where hay for sale is listed by county. To view the Hay Directory, go to www.kyagr.com, click on Programs and click on Hay for Sale.