That's good news to people like Earl Armstrong of Boothville, La. After Hurricane Katrina laid waste to his farm, Armstrong was pessimistic about what he would find of his cattle herd.
"I'd give anything to see 100 of my cows out there, but I doubt if I'll see 50. And that's out of 1,600," said Armstrong, whose farm is on one of the fingers of southeastern Louisiana that stretch into the Gulf of Mexico.
Eighth-generation farmer Eric Morrow of Ponchatoula, La., returned home after Hurricane Katrina to find his eggplant and tomato crops ruined and the plastic covering his strawberry plants blown off or loosened. "I save every season and pay cash for the inputs so I'm not carrying debt on the crops," Morrow explained. "But, now I'll have to spend more money to do repairs, and I've lost my vegetables, so the money that would hold me over until berry season isn't there."
After Hurricane Katrina, 62 dairies in the Gulf Coast states had to sell their herds because, without electricity for days and even weeks, they couldn't operate their milking parlors. Dairy farmer Bill Pigott of Walthall County, Miss., said it could take years for his state's dairy industry to recover.
The story was the same throughout the area struck by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: plants toppled and drowned; damaged or destroyed barns and poultry houses; fences blown down; livestock stranded in standing water. Many animals have been given feed and clean water and transported to higher ground in the weeks since the hurricanes. But much remains to be done as farmers in the Gulf Coast states start on the road to recovery.
Help from Kentucky is on its way. On Thursday the KDA and members of FFA chapters from Boyle, Franklin, Garrard, Lincoln, Madison and Shelby counties loaded a truck furnished by the University of Kentucky with fencing and 24 tons of livestock feed (of which 10 tons were donated) bound for Pearl River County, Mississippi. The supplies were gathered at Burkmann Mills in Danville and Bagdad Roller Mills in Shelby County, each of which donated some feed and sold more feed at cost.
Cash contributions crossed the $12,000 mark with a donation of $1,500 from the Shelby County Cattlemen's Association. The Shelby County FFA chapter collected $138 and the Western Hills High School chapter put in $80 toward the purchase of feed. The Madison Southern chapter arrived at Burkmann Mills with a truckload of feed it donated and fencing from Tractor Supply Co. and Prewitt's Bluegrass Ag. The Boyle, Garrard and Lincoln County chapters each gave a ton of feed.
"I am grateful to all the groups and individuals who have given so much for farmers in the Gulf Coast states who have lost fencing, feed, barns, livestock and more," Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer said. "Those farmers are facing a long, painful struggle to get their operations back to where they were. I hope all Kentuckians - farmers and non-farmers alike - will give generously."
The Department and its partners will continue to collect tax-deductible donations to help affected farmers in Mississippi and Louisiana through Oct. 14. Farm supplies may be donated at any of eight collection points set up throughout the Commonwealth.
Cash donations may be made by check or credit card to the Kentucky Cattlemen's Association, 176 Pasadena Drive, Lexington, KY 40503. Donors are asked to write checks to "KCA Katrina Fund." To make a credit card donation, call the KCA at (859) 278-0899.
Other partners in the drive include Anderson Circle Farm, the Hardin County Cattlemen's Association, the Kentucky Dairy Development Council, the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, Kentucky Farm Bureau, Kentucky 4-H, the Kentucky Pork Producers Association and the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association.
For more information on how you can make a tax-deductible donation, call the Kentucky Department of Agriculture toll-free at 1-888-567-9589.