In the worst drought of the century, farmers across the southern United States have lost billions of dollars worth of crops and livestock. In Georgia and North and South Carolina, many counties have been declared disaster areas. While the South anxiously awaits proposed drought-relief legislation, Canadian farmers and a corporation have reached into their pockets to provide short-term help. Last week more than 1,200 tons of hay were shipped to Georgia and the Carolinas. And attached to each bale was a card bearing a message: “Gift of the farmers and citizens of New Brunswick, Canada.”
For the southern farmers, the only alternative to letting their livestock starve has been to sell the animals below market prices. That inspired Harrison McCain, the 58-year-old chairman of Florenceville, N.B.-based McCain Foods Ltd., to organize a relief program. On July 30, at an annual barbecue for the 500 area growers who sell produce to the company, McCain pledged up to 240 tons of hay to the
drought-stricken states—worth about $16,000—and he set a provincial goal of 2,400 tons. Within hours, pledges were pouring in. Said McCain: “The Americans are darn good fellows. They’ve gone to the rescue of the world so often and they don’t expect the rest of the world to give them anything back.”
The hay is the first that the southern farmers have received from outside the United mJLjßjß States. But Lanny Williams, director of international trade for the Georgia department of agriculture, who has spent the last month working on the hay reMcCain: gifts lief effort, said he was not surprised at Canadian generosity. Said Williams: “Canadians are like southerners. For the most part they’re a very gentle, caring group.”
Indeed, the entire effort has been di-
rected by McCain’s employees, and eastern Canadian and American railways have donated boxcars and the use of their lines until Aug. 31. Seventyone railcars from Florenceville, Grand Falls and other communities of the lush St. John River Valley have already set out for the South, and at least 58 more will follow before the railroads’ deadline. Although Canadian relief efforts are deeply appreciated in the South, U.S. agriculture officials estimate that farmers in Georgia alone will need two million tons of hay to feed their livestock over the winter. But the aid drive has reaffirmed that farmers belong to an international community. Said Benjamin Brake, who grows potatoes and raises cattle in Bath, N.B., and has donated 35 tons of hay: “Farmers are farmers wherever they live. Everybody gets hard times. I’ve had my share and I know how I’d feel if I couldn’t feed my cattle. It would be the end of me.”
-NORA UNDERWOOD with KATHRYN HARLEY in Fredericton
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