MADISON, Wis. - An idea from a central Wisconsin farmer to help other farmers during the drought is taking root.
Gov. Scott Walker announced a new "Farmer to Farmer" effort meant to help provide feed to struggling farmers Friday morning.
It was one of the ideas provided by farmers at last week's meeting the governor convened to brainstorm ideas to help during the drought.
Dick Pavelski farms some 15,000 acres of vegetables like sweet corn, peas and potatoes on irrigated land, much of which is being harvested now.
Those fields typically sit dormant until fall, when a simple cover crop is planted to prevent erosion. But instead, Pavelski said he and other vegetable growers will plant another crop.
"The opportunity is here if we move quickly is to move up that planting date because we've got about 70-75 days of growing season yet and we can grow well over 100,000 ton of forage," said Pavelski.
Pavelski said he'll plant about a thousand acres of rye and oats starting Saturday. He believes combined, the Potato and Vegetable Growers Association in that area could plant 20,000-30,000 acres of crops to go on the market.
"That tonnage, we will have a home for it, I'm convinced of that," said Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Ben Brancel. "We are hearing stories of people that are going to Nebraska looking, or South Dakota where they've found some and been denied by others."
The effort is to try to prevent many livestock farmers from selling off herds because they can't afford to feed them.
Brancel said most cattle marketing is up, including at the Milwaukee Stockyards, which has seen an increase of around 100 head a day.
"We were really looking at ways that we could send an immediate message not only to our crop farmers of ways we could help, but our dairy farmers so the weren't making an ill-advised decision to take their herd to market and maybe sell them off and get out of the business," said Walker.
The state is looking for more farmers to step up. Pavelski said his family at Heartland Farms is proud to help out.
"That's the one thing about farming, is that we kind of have a brotherhood," said Pavelski. "There'll be a time when we need help, too.
The UW extension set up a website so farmers who are buying or selling forages can find out what's available of what's needed and can be found here.
Walker also said his office had contacted other states and Canadian provinces about the availability of feed in those areas, if needed.
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