GUELPH, ON — As part of its HayEast 2012 initiative, the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) asked its members earlier this month to donate trucking services to help haul hay from Alberta and Saskatchewan in order to meet emergency demand in Ontario and Quebec.
And with winter rolling in quickly, governments have committed $500,000 to aid Ontario’s drought-stricken farmers, as they still need an additional 60,000 bales of hay to sustain livestock for the season.
“Farmers in Western Canada have donated what they could to the program, but the challenge has been paying the significant transportation costs of shipping hay cross-country,” said Nial Kuyek, general manager, Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) and HayEast 2012 organizer.
“With this government support we’ll move as quickly as we can to get hay to farmers in need this month,” he said.
So far, farmers in Western Canada have donated thousands of bales of hay, which began arriving in Ontario in October 2012.
According to the HayEast 2012 website, governments are also determined to match cash donations made to the HayEast 2012 program on a cost-shared basis up to $2.5 million.
HayEast 2012, a partnership involving farm organizations across Canada, is a follow-up to the “HayWest” program in 2002, when after a severe drought, more than 1,800 farmers in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia donated 35,000 tons of hay to 1000 farmers in Alberta and Saskatchewan chosen by a lottery.
Now, farmers in some parts of Eastern Canada are the ones in need.
“The situations in parts of Ontario are not good. The early spring weather coupled with the hard frost in April managed to kill the alfalfa in many areas. The drought has eliminated second cut in many areas as well. There is no pasture left due to the drought and the corn is not even fit for chopping as early feed. Some herds have been liquidated and others are pending,” said Neil Currie, General Manager of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
But the Western Canadian counterparts are eager to reciprocate the good will.
In a story reported by The Province, Polar Industries truckers Henry Latkolik and his girlfriend and co-driver, Sheri Loucks, set out on snow-blanketed roads to pick up donated hay. The couple are among the truckers taking part in HayEast 2012.
The four-hour trip from Saskatoon to Regina “was interesting to say the least,” said Latkolik, who pulled his 18-wheeler into Husky House in east Regina on his way to Avonlea to pick up the hay.
“It was almost pure whiteout conditions,” he said. “There was 100 yards visibility at best. We were down to 20 km/hour and there were cars everywhere in the ditch.”
Latkolik and Loucks also had a close call near Regina when a northbound pickup truck hit black ice and ploughed through the ditch and landed in their southbound lane.
But despite the road to Avonlea being buried under the snow, the ice-trucking duo were still intent on picking up their load of hay this weekend.
“This is just another day in the office for us,” Latkolik said.
Loucks just got her Class 1 licence so she was reluctant about immediately climbing back into the Peterbilt truck and pulling their flatbed trailer to Avonlea on icy highways, The Province reports.
“Up until 150 km north of Regina, we were OK and then we hit snow and freezing rain,” she said. “The difference with driving on the winter roads is you don’t have as much traffic and you have banks that you can bounce off.”
Nevertheless, she was still determined to roll on.
“We’re up for it,” Loucks said. “It’s always an adventure.” Check out The Province.com for the full story.
And you don’t have be a member of the AMTA to help, either. Visit www.hayeast2012.com or call 1-855-429-2012.
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