The hay donations keep rolling in: 124 tons and counting.
“That’s the type of outreach we’re getting. It’s amazing,” says Eric Staman, who farms 10 acres and is coordinating relief efforts for Nebraska farmers in northeast Pennsylvania.
Trucks loaded with hay started going out March 29. Another truck was loaded with donated food and cleaning supplies destined for a former livestock market in Verdigre, Neb., which was hard hit by devastating floods last month.
Nearly $20,000 has been donated to cover the fuel costs for truckers hauling the hay and supplies to Nebraska, most of whom are local owner-operators of trucks. Staman says $10,000 has been set aside to buy fencing materials for farmers in need, enough to do about 4.5 miles of fencing. He says a local farmer has bought a used fence pounder and is planning to go to Nebraska to let farmers out there use it.
Leclerc Foods, which has a plant in Montgomery, has donated snacks for drivers and people in need. New Holland Agriculture has even donated $3,500 toward the recovery effort.
The drive from northern Pennsylvania to Nebraska can take upwards of 18 hours. According to the Montoursville FFA Facebook page, most of these trips start early in the morning with drivers arriving late at night.
A bale of hay caught fire on one of the trucks as it was going through South Holland, Ill. Apparently, a tire overheated and exploded, setting the bale on fire. Luckily, the fire was quickly extinguished. A local farmer donated a bale to replace the burned one.
A GoFundMe account set up for donations has raised $3,912, well past the $2,000 goal.
It’s not just in Pennsylvania, though. A group of farmers from Delmarva have also donated hay and materials to the relief effort with truck shipments going out earlier this month. A Facebook page, Delmarva for #NebraskaStrong, has been set up for people to track the shipments with pictures, videos and other resources.
Erika Wilson, owner of Wilson Transportation Services in Easton, Md., says seven trucks with 30 bales each have been delivered to hard-hit areas of Nebraska. Wilson says she wanted to help after seeing images of the devastation on social media, so she started contacting some of her farmer friends to see if they would help.
A local television and radio station put out the call for donations and a local Giant food store donated a pallet of canned goods and cleaning supplies. Other truckers like Steve Vanover have taken the trip to Nebraska with hay bales in tow.
She says more shipments will be made as long as farmers want to donate.
“When you look at Nebraska, that's us, that could happen to us. It's just heartbreaking," she says.
More help needed
Jaime Meyer with the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center says it will be awhile before farmers fully recover.
Damage estimates are $439 million in infrastructure, $85 million in damage to private homes and businesses, $400 million in losses to the cow-calf sector, and $440 million in losses to crop producers.
“It’s bad,” he says. “There’s a lot of farmers whose fields are completely coated with inches of sand from the river [Platte River]. A lot of hay and feed sitting in several feet of water. A lot of places with water floating, barns and houses lost.”
Initially, the biggest need was hay as the floodwaters destroyed many acres of pasture normally used to graze beef cattle. As the floodwaters receded — although another powerful storm was forecast to go through the area late last week — the need shifted to fencing supplies. Anything from the most basic tools to steel T posts, wooden fence posts, galvanized wire for electric fencing and gloves are needed.
The 10,000-acre Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center has been set up as a collection point for donations. A full mile’s worth of space is available to store hay and supplies, Meyer says, but only an eighth of a mile has been used to this point.
He says 500 hay bales have been distributed to local farmers thus far. Along with that, 500 steel fence posts, 100 wooden posts and barbed wire have been distributed to farmers.
He says there are numerous collection points in the state but getting to these points can be tricky. I-80, the main interstate that cuts through the south-central part of the state, is in pretty good shape. But I-29, which straddles the eastern Nebraska state line, is in bad shape, with numerous places still flooded and damaged from receded floodwaters.
NEBRASKA BOUND: Pennsylvania farmers have donated more than 124 tons of hay bales, with the first shipments going out March 29.
The flooding has caused more than $1.5 billion worth of damage, and rising, in Nebraska. Other states such as Iowa and Wisconsin were also hard hit. It is largely the result of record snowfall in February that was followed by heavy rains in early March and excessive snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains.
Floodwaters overwhelmed the Missouri and Platte rivers along with numerous smaller rivers and streams.
Farmers interested in donating can go directly to the Montoursville FFA Facebook site or the GoFundMe donation site.
For information on the Delmarva donation drive, go to the Delmarva for #NebraskaStrong Facebook page.
You can also make donations on the Nebraska Farm Bureau website or contact your local Farm Bureau.
You can also mail out a donation and send it to Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation at Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation, Attn: Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 80299, Lincoln, NE 68501-0299.