BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s Agriculture Department, North Dakota State University and a Michigan-based nonprofit are joining forces to help provide hay for drought-stricken ranchers in North Dakota.

The department and university said Tuesday that they have set up a site near the Fargo campus to accept hay donations that will be doled out to needy producers through a lottery.

Michigan-based Ag Community Relief is spearheading a large hay donation to the state this month, and other groups that want to donate are being urged to call the Agriculture Department’s Drought Hotline, at 701-425-8454.

“We are so grateful to our friends in Michigan for everything they are doing for our producers,” North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said.

Hay applications from ranchers are being accepted through August at the department’s website . The first hay drawing will be in early September, with more held if donations allow.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows most of western North Dakota to be in extreme or exceptional drought, which are the two worst categories. The federal Agriculture Department’s weekly crop report issued Monday states that about three-fourths of North Dakota’s alfalfa hay crop as well as its pasture and range land are in poor or very poor condition.

“It literally looks like fall out there. The grass is just brown, brittle,” said Dawn Martin, who raises beef cattle with her parents and husband in southwestern North Dakota. The Martins have sold off about one-third of their cattle because they can’t feed them, and many other ranchers are doing the same.

An NDSU website that helps match hay buyers with sellers on Tuesday listed nearly 100 ranchers seeking hay. The demand has pushed prices to as much as double the normal cost.

The federal government earlier this summer declared numerous North Dakota counties to be disaster areas, and Gov. Doug Burgum last week also declared a drought disaster.

Federal aid so far includes emergency loans, forage disaster payments and emergency haying and grazing of land enrolled in conservation and wetland programs. The state has taken several additional steps, including adding more money to its Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply cost-share program and relaxing commercial driving and weight limit restrictions to help with the transport of livestock, water and hay.


Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake