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Hay train to bring relief to farmers

BY DANIEL R. GANGLER | PLEASANT CITY, OH | March 7, 2000

PLEASANT CITY, OH (March 7, 2000) -- Twenty-seven

train cars full of hay are chugging eastward from Upper

Michigan to 200 drought-stricken family-size farms in the mid-

Atlantic.

The hay is a farmer-to-farmer donation from families who

remember their own hard times and want to help. And hard

times are what mid-Atlantic farmers are facing right

now. A severe winter hay and feed shortage -- the result

of last summer's severe drought as well as ongoing

drought conditions -- has brought many farm families to

the brink of bankruptcy.

The logistics surrounding 27 carloads of hay have

involved not only the farmers who donated it but also

the volunteer efforts of a bevy of faith-based

organizations, generous railroads, and even some U.S.

senators.

At the heart of the effort is Family Farm Drought

Response, a group of faith-based disaster response

organizations that launched an initiative last fall to provide hay

and other services to family-size farms that were struggling to cope

with the drought.

While the hay train is the largest single delivery effort, more than

300 other farmers have already received assistance across a

seven-state area -- from Kentucky to Delaware -- targeted by the

program. Mennonite Disaster Services, the Church of the Brethren,

Lutheran Disaster Response, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, United

Methodist Committee on Relief and Church World Service are among the

more than a dozen organizations that have contributed to the project.

An outgrowth of the hay-response program, a new telephone and

Internet clearinghouse for farmers in the region facing current and

future disaster situations, has been established with additional

support from Farm Aid. The toll-free number of the clearinghouse is

(888) 800-0118.

As volunteers loaded the hay on rail cars last week, they mixed

fellowship with an intentional purpose. Each car holds as much hay as

four semi-trucks -- or 15 to 22 tons, depending on the moisture of

the hay.

Those have coordinated hay lifts report that arranging

timely transportation has been one of the most difficult

aspects of coordinating logistics. If hay isn't

delivered in enough time after it's donated, it will

spoil.

In this case, with the help of two senators, Spencer Abraham of

Michigan and Mike DeWine of Ohio, transportation of this

hay will be donated by the Wisconsin Central Railroad,

which will take the loads as far as Chicago, and CSX

railroad, which will pick up the cars and bring them

Point Pleasant, WV. Then ecumenical volunteers on that

end will unload the hay and make sure it gets into the

hands of farmers who need it.

Posted March 7, 2000


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