Nearly 6,000 round and square bales of hay began leaving Columbia, South Carolina on Feb. 9, headed for hurricane ravaged farms in south Mississippi and Louisiana.

Operation Hay Lift will continue until 3,000 large round bales and over 2,500 square bales of hay are delivered to farmers along the Gulf Coast.

The 40-foot South Carolina National Guard trucks used to transport the Hay Lift recently returned from duty in Iraq. Each of the battle-worn trucks will carry 25 large bales of hay or 300 square bales to Gulf Coast livestock producers who are in dire need.

“South Carolina is usually classified as a hay deficient state,” says South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers. “Last year was a particularly good one for hay production in our state, and our farmers want to share their bounty with their counterparts in need,” he adds.

“I am deeply grateful for the South Carolina National Guard for helping them help their neighbors,” Commissioner Weathers concludes.

Farmers in Mississippi and Louisiana have lost their equipment, fences, fields, animals and virtually everything needed to stay in business. Many livestock producers in Mississippi and Louisiana have either fed the hay they had stored, or in many cases, it was blown away, along with the barns that held it.

Commissioner Weathers notes that producers throughout the nation helped South Carolina livestock producers during extreme drought years in the 1980s and 1990s. It is fitting, he says, that South Carolina farmers can help those who have lost their homes and livelihoods in the Gulf Coast states.

Major General Stan Spears, adjutant general of the South Carolina National Guard says, “This is a new mission to a different gulf for our soldiers.”

“It's a mission of compassion to protect lives, human and animal, in our neighbor states,” he adds.