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New Brunswick farmers pitched in when U.S. hay was in short supply in '86

With an abundance of hay in the summer of 1986, New Brunswick farmers shared the wealth with their counterparts in the U.S.

Farmers loaded boxcars with hay to feed cattle in drought-stricken states as far south as Georgia

Farmers in Florenceville, N.B. decided to share their abundant hay crop with less fortunate farmers in the U.S. 1:31

The summer of 1986 brought severe heat and drought to the southern U.S., and by August farmers in states like Georgia and the Carolinas were in dire need of hay to feed their animals.

That was why, as The National reported on Aug. 8, 1986, many Canadian farmers living and working more than 1,000 kilometres north of the disastrous situation "put in a long, hard day of work today, and they didn't get paid a cent for it."

This was, as reporter Terry Seguin put, "a story about people helping people."

Seguin was reporting from Florenceville, N.B., where "thousands of tons of hay" were being loaded up in trucks and boxcars to help the farmers' southern counterparts feed their cattle.

New Brunswick farmers loaded hay onto trucks that were headed south to state-side neighbours in need during the dry summer of 1986. (The National/CBC Archives)

The farmers in Georgia and the Carolinas, he explained, were experiencing "the worst drought in a century" and their cattle were suffering starvation because of the lack of feed hay.

New Brunswick, however, had an abundant crop that year, and the farmers had "more than they need," Seguin reported.

'People before politics'

A tractor raises dust in a hay field in drought-stricken Georgia in 1986. (The National/CBC Archives)

The reason for the gift of labour and crops was explained simply by some of the men who pitched in with their labour as well as their crops.

"I feel sorry for them," said one farmer who spoke to CBC News. "I wouldn't want my cattle to starve."

As Seguin summed up, in spite of current talk about tariff wars and protectionism, the farmers were more interested in putting "people before politics."

That same day the Toronto Star had reported that Harrison McCain, of McCain Foods Ltd., had organized the "hay-lift," which included financial donations from businesses and the hay from the farmers.

It was expected, according to the Star, that a total of 120 boxcars filled with hay would be sent to the U.S.

This farmer told CBC he felt sorry for the state-side farmers. (The National/CBC Archives)