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Donated hay arrives in FL

BY GEORGE PIPER | FLORIDA | August 10, 1998

FLORIDA (August 10, 1998) -- A dozen boxcars of Kentucky hay arrived in Florida this week as

part of an ecumenical effort to bring feed to the state's livestock.

A month ago, Jason Moats, pastor at Ewing (Ky.) Christian Church,

linked with his state's Disciples of Christ churches and a Florida

interfaith disaster organization to gather hay for its journey south. About 230

tons of hay were in a first shipment and another 250 to

300 tons are being prepared for a second train trip. Railroad companies CSX

and Transkentucky Transportation (TTI) donated equipment and transportation.

Drought and wildfires in May and June left farmers without hay or grazing

areas to feed livestock.

"It was certainly an ecumenical event where people came together and said

this is what we need to do in the name of Christ," said Moats.

Finding enough hay to fill train cars was no problem. Even after an

estimated 300 tons from Central Kentucky and Southern Indiana is loaded

next week, Moats said some 900 tons of donated

hay will remain in fields.

Church World Service consultants are contacting churches in counties where

hay will be delivered, said Jody Hill, executive director Florida

Interfaith Networking in Disaster (FIND). She expects the organization to

work with Florida officials on distributing hay to the right places.

"I think the mission of both the faith community and the government is that

the hay goes to people who need it," she said.

Distribution will be established in four areas: Mariana, Trenton, Wildwood

and the Orlando area.

"It's going to be a relief to those (farmers) who get it," said Joe Kight,

a Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services spokesman.

"The generosity is just overwhelming to them," he added. "It's one thing

when your corn crop doesn't make it. But when your cattle are starving or

losing weight, it's just another level emotionally."

Even with recent rains, Kight estimates the hay crop to be about one-third

of its usual amount.

"We are not able to cut hay this year in Florida," he said. "A lot of the

hay we are getting will be used in the winter."

"This is desperately needed," said a spokesman for the agricultural

agent in Dixie County. "Generally by this time (our) farmers have hundreds,

if not

thousands of round bales in the barn for winter -- to date there are only

50 in the entire county."

Kentucky is among five other states -- Virginia, West Virginia, North

Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia -- that have donated some 7,000 tons

of hay. Kight said states from Delaware to Oregon also offered hay, but

transportation couldn't be arranged. Donations originated in other states

through farm bureau programs, but the Kentucky effort was organized by

local churches.

If more hay is needed, Moats is confident he can count on his state's

farmers to come through. And as the heat wilts crops in other states, hay

could be sent where it is needed.

"The farmers feel what comes around goes around," he said, noting that

Kentucky farmers received out-of-state hay during droughts in 1986 and

1988. "They felt this time they had the excess and they could share it with

others who didn't have it and needed it."

Updated August 10, 1998

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