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West marshaling feed for Hay East program

Organizers are setting up a website and toll-free number to co-ordinate donations of hay from Western Canada for use by livestock producers in need in parched regions of Ontario and Quebec.

The program, dubbed “Hay East” after the 2002 “Hay West” program that saw forages shipped to the Prairies from Eastern Canada, is co-chaired by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and Mennonite Disaster Service, the Winnipeg-based emergency volunteer network of the Anabaptist church.

The program — launched Thursday in Whitehorse during the Canadian Federation of Agriculture roundtable at the meeting of Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial ag ministers — will require eastern farmers needing forage to apply for consideration.

Farmers in Ontario or Quebec needing forage assistance can e-mail MDS’s Delmer Erb or the OFA, visit the OFA’s site or call the MDS region V office in Winnipeg at 1-866-261-1274.

Meanwhile, western farmers able and willing to donate hay can email Ike Epp or call the MDS region V office.

Anyone without spare forage wanting to support Hay East can also donate money to defray shipping costs, either through the MDS region V office in Winnipeg or through any MDS Unit.

Other ag organizations across Canada are getting involved in Hay East and farmers in the West are “anxious to reciprocate” the good will shown during the Hay West drive.

“We are grateful to the western Canadian farmers who are getting organized to send hay to their eastern neighbours,” OFA president Mark Wales said in a release. “There is an urgent need for feed for livestock on many (eastern) farms, particularly in areas where there is no crop to harvest. Inventories of forage are being used or are already gone because pastures dried up early in the season.”

The OFA, Wales said, wants eastern farmers in need to know “organizations such as Mennonite Disaster Service and their fellow farmers are working to deliver as much relief as possible… The Hay East mission is to help farmers sustain livestock through the winter, and there are a lot of people working very hard to make that happen.”

MDS’s Saskatchewan unit has already launched a hay drive in that province for shipment to affected regions in Eastern Canada and the U.S. Midwest.

MDS’s Ontario unit, meanwhile, said it’s “working collaboratively with other organizations to ensure broad awareness in drought-affected areas, to be positioned to receive hay, and to distribute it in the most effective way possible.”

OFA noted Thursday that a federal/provincial AgriRecovery task team assessment of the drought impact in affected regions of Ontario is now “ongoing,” with an assessment report expected to be complete by the first week of October.

Related stories:
Tax deferrals offered in drought-hit Ont., Que. counties, Sept. 1, 2012
Hot, dry weather to limit Ontario corn yields, Aug. 16, 2012

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