Despite a bounty of good will and aid, drought-afflicted Iowa farmers are worried that the Idaho hay they are cutting for hungry livestock back home won't be enough to make it through winter.
"A lot of us guys are just plain out of hay," said Albia, Iowa, dairyman Don Tibbals, one of the farmers who was to begin cutting Thursday. "But when things are as bad as they are back home, every little bit helps."The 64 men, women and teenagers who arrived late Tuesday after a 40-hour, 1,600-mile bus trip scouted fields Wednesday where they would begin harvesting hay near Deary, about 30 miles northeast of Moscow.
The farmers, from south and central Iowa, came to the Palouse region of northern Idaho to cut hay on lands set aside for a government erosion-control program.
Conservation Reserve Program land is normally not farmed, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released it for harvest by drought-afflicted farmers, said Mike Tracy, spokesman for the Idaho Farm Bureau, which is coordinating the hay project with the Iowa Farm Bureau.
At a dinner Wednesday, the Iowans were assigned fields and machinery. Plans were to work from field to field - like an assembly line - until hay is harvested from 4,500 acres available.
The harvest could take 10 days, but cutting and baling must be finished by Aug. 31, a deadline set by the Agriculture Department.
Depending on field conditions, the program was expected to produce 1,500 to 5,000 tons of hay, which will be shipped without charge to Iowa by the Burlington Northern Railroad.