Clovis pastor working to import hay from Iowa

With a surplus in Iowa and a shortage in the Southwest, a Clovis pastor is working to bring hay to area farmers and ranchers in need.

“We’re gauging the need and seeing where we can be the hands in God’s work. You never know until you ask,” said Bonita Knox, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, ELCA.

“We can do far more together than we can separately.”

Knox said the issue of transferring surplus hay to shortage areas came up when an Iowa farmer was seated next to a Texas rancher during a mid-August nationwide gathering of Lutherans in Florida.

“They got to talking. The farmers did well in their production of hay this year and Texas did not,” she said.

The conversation grew to a plan, now known as “Hay Lift,” and Knox said hay deliveries started Wednesday with loads delivered two small west Texas communities near Abilene and San Angelo.

Knox said the effort is being coordinated through Lutheran ELCA disaster response programs, and she was called by the Lutheran ELCA church asking how much hay was needed in the local area to make it to spring.

She said she jumped at the chance to include the Eastern Plains in the relief effort and now she’s putting out a call to the community to tell her how much hay is needed so that she can report back by Tuesday morning.

“I know the needs are large. I don’t know how much we can get down here,” she said. “Can we meet the needs of all the farmers and ranchers? That’s in God’s hands, but it is God’s work and it’s in our hands that we can help.”

In the early spring months a small bale of alfalfa averaged $8.75 in the area, but prices have risen as high as $11 a bale since with feed suppliers predicting increasing prices and shortages over coming months.

Between wildfires depleting grazing land and drought hindering growth, local hay production has been virtually non-existent this year, said Patrick Kircher, Roosevelt County extension agent. Because those conditions are shared throughout the region, he said there is no reasonable distance people can travel to get hay at affordable costs.

“There’s really a big array of people that are in a bind … If you use up your reserve feed, you’ve got nothing to go to,” he said.

“I wouldn’t even begin to hazard a guess as to how much is needed. I think there are folks that are legitimately out of hay and there are folks that are finding the wherewithal to come up with the money and buy it.”

Large operations are more able to ship hay in from out of state, but they are having to go hundreds of miles to find hay at high costs, Kircher said.

“For the average guy that feeds let’s say 300 small bales a year, he probably doesn’t have the chance to buy all that and have it shipped in at once,” he said.

With livestock such as cattle and sheep, the market has been favorable and gives producers an option to sell if they find they can’t meet the needs of their herds, however the horse market has been poor for several years and owners have less options when they can’t make ends meet,” he said.

The effort by Knox and her church is well targeted, Kircher said, and there’s no doubt that whether a small operation or a large one, the need for hay in the area is great.

“I think it’s very admirable,” he said.