In cooperation with partners from local and state businesses, government agencies, and state legislators, Virginia Cooperative Extension has developed a cost-share program to respond to hay shortages in Southwest Virginia. Using a $500,000 grant from the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, the Southwest Virginia Agricultural Association will distribute payments to livestock producers in counties suffering the most from the drought.

“The effects of the drought, along with a hard freeze in April that damaged pastures in Southwest Virginia, mean that livestock owners in Southwest Virginia face both a shorter pasture season and hay prices two to four times those of previous years,” said Phil Blevins, agriculture and natural resources Extension agent in Abingdon, Va. “Our part of the state saw the worst effects of last year’s drought, and this is taking a toll on the region’s livestock industry.”

Extension agents began by surveying local producers about the difficulties they face due to weather-related conditions. “Based on the responses of livestock owners in 13 counties, we estimate that need here is in excess of 13,000 tons of hay,” Blevins said.

After Extension agents developed a proposal for the program, the Tobacco Commission allocated the money to the Southwest Virginia Agricultural Association, a non-profit consortium of local livestock producers in the region. Extension not only facilitated this collaboration but also continues to be involved by reviewing applications and receipts for cost shares.

“We are especially appreciative of the work done by Sen. Philip Puckett and the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Committee to secure and approve these funds swiftly for our livestock producers,” Blevins said.

Under the program, producers in Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe counties can receive $35 per ton of hay, not to exceed 50 percent of the total cost. At most, producers can receive 25 tons of hay, but the amount of hay purchased must be in line with owned livestock requirements.

Although the Hay Relief Program officially started on Jan. 21, receipts throughout December and January are eligible for reimbursement. The program will continue until forage growth is adequate to sustain animals. For more information about the Hay Relief Program, contact Phil Blevins at or (276) 676-6309, or contact your local Extension agent in one of the participating counties.

About Virginia Cooperative Extension Virginia Cooperative Extension brings the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth. Through a system of on-campus specialists and locally based agents, it delivers education in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development. With a network of faculty at two universities, 107 county and city offices, 13 agricultural research and Extension centers, and six 4-H educational centers, Virginia Cooperative Extension provides solutions to the problems facing Virginians today.

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