Montana expands hay lottery as drought, fire situation worsen
Montana expands hay lottery as drought, fire situation worsen.
— As wildfires continue to burn grasslands and forests across Montana and drought continues to worsen, the Montana Department of Agriculture has expanded its hay lottery.
Drought conditions gradually have worsened across Montana throughout the summer, and the Sept. 7 release of the U.S. Drought Monitor for the first time had the entire state in some category of drought condition, from abnormally dry to the most severe category, exceptional drought.
The Lodgepole Complex fire, which burned earlier this summer in eastern Montana, was the largest and most damaging fire to ranchers thus far, burning more than 270,000 acres of what was largely pasture and grass.
Fjeseth says calls from people wanting to donate hay to the state have increased in recent weeks, leading the Department of Agriculture to expand its hay lottery.
In the new program, announced Sept. 7, hay will be housed at Miles Community College in Miles City, Mont., and the Montana Stockgrowers Foundation will help coordinate cash donations for transportation costs.
The Department of Agriculture will draw for the hay in October, and producers who already applied for the past lottery and did not receive hay will be eligible for subsequent drawings.
We saw a need to help coordinate donations, so we decided to expand the lottery,” Montana Department of Agriculture Director Ben Thomas said in a statement.
Livestock producers interested in applying for the hay lottery must submit an application at http://agr.mt.gov/Hay-Lottery-2017.
Anyone with questions about filling out the hay lottery application should call the Department of Agriculture’s Fire & Drought Assistance Hotline at 1-844-515-1571.