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Drought Drives Demand For Minnesota Hay

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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COKATO, Minn. (WCCO) — Fields lined by leafy, green rows of freshly cut alfalfa may just as well be strips of gold, as the essential feed for dairy cows and horses is quickly becoming a huge cash crop for Central Minnesota farmers.

Harlan Anderson farms more than 800 acres just northwest of Cokato, Minn. This summer, his fields of alfalfa are producing plenty of hay.

But instead of shipping the familiar one-ton round bales, Anderson developed a new processed hay. His alfalfa is baled like most farmers do and then fed into machines where it is chopped and squeezed into bite-sized cubes. The cubes are packaged into 40-pound bags and then stacked onto pallets.

In the last two weeks, his phone has been ringing off the hook and his inbox is full of inquiries.

“Like Indiana, Wisconsin, Texas, Nebraska,” he said. “Those are areas that have the most interest — they must be the driest.”

Suddenly, hay is turning into a huge cash crop for farmers with excess harvests. At nearly $240 per ton, drought stricken farmers across the country are paying to get whatever they can.

“We here in Minnesota almost feel guilty, we’re almost like an oasis in the desert,” he said. “If you look at the United States, it’s dry all over it seems like.”

Forage auctions are also becoming busier than normal, as farmers desperate for feed are having it shipped far and wide.

Anderson says his packaged hay is easier to transport. That’s a huge plus, seeing it’s being trucked hundreds of miles away.

“I don’t ever remember that Minnesota farmers were in such a lucrative position at the expense of the rest of the country, as I’ve seen this year,” Anderson said.

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