Mississippi hay relieves Texas farmers during long drought

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Dean Byers loads hay onto a semitrailer Friday, Aug. 26, northeast of Fruita, Colo. which will be hauled to the Front Range to feed horses. The truck driver is Jason Hundley of Elizabeth. Hay is a hot commodity now because of the Texas drought.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

MCCOMB, Miss. — It’s a classic scene: a tractor loading bales of hay onto a flatbed trailer. Only these days that trailer is likely to belong to an 18-wheeler, as local farmers ship their hay to drought-plagued Texas.

On a recent morning, driver Mike Spiers of Inlaws & Outlaws Trucking of Tylertown cinched the tie-down straps on 38 round bales of hay in Buddy Dupuy’s field on Mississippi Highway 24 west of McComb.

“This is my 20th load,” said Spiers, who’s been hauling a load a day to Kilgore, Texas.

“Every evening [when] I get unloaded and start back this way there must be 40, 50 trucks, from gooseneck trailers to 18-wheelers, hauling hay to Texas.”

Spiers’ load was cut and baled by Derwood Brady, Chris Ham and Warren Terrell. At three bales per acre, Spiers’ truck was toting the yield of nearly 13 acres.

Dupuy said his hay-selling partner, Steve Brady, was contacted by a man in Kilgore who needed hay. Dupuy said he heard reports that some Texans were having to buy bad hay at inflated prices.

“We’re selling them hay on the same prices we charge locally,” Dupuy said, who grows Bermuda, bahia and Argentina bahia grasses.

“We’ve got some nice hay fields,” he said. “We’re running, golly, every day, and by the time we get one cut, the back field is ready to make a rerun. We’re looking at trying to get three to four cuttings this year.”

Although he’s shipping plenty to Texas, “we’re going to make sure we have enough hay for local folks,” Dupuy said.

Amite County Agent Richard Hay said word about the Texas shortage started spreading in late July and early August via emails, newsletters, Facebook, websites and meetings.

Much of Texas hasn’t received rain in two or three months, which coupled with intense heat has savaged the hay crop there.

Southwest Mississippi farmers stepped up to the plate, selling hay at the regular rate with the Texas residents footing the freight costs, Hay said.

A bale sells for $25 to $30. Shipping adds an estimated $50 to $75 per bale, depending on distance.

“The 4 by 5 [foot] bales are the ones that they really like because they stack on the trailers really nice. There’s no overhang,” Hay said.

“Thank goodness we’ve got it to send them, but it’s just a drop in the bucket. It’s a pretty dire and desperate situation, but we’re doing what we can. We’re shipping them a lot of hay, I can tell you that.”

Mississippi landowners have had their own problems producing hay this year.

“There is a hay shortage, but we seemed to get a little reprieve with July because we did get a little bit of rain, which allowed us to cut hay in August,” Hay said.

Inlaws & Outlaws Trucking Co. owner Danny Lea said by cell phone from Marshall, Texas, “I’ve got people waiting in line for me to bring the hay to them. There’s that big a shortage.”