AUGUSTA (AP) – Complaints from Maine farmers about the poor quality of the summer’s hay harvest have prompted the state’s agriculture commissioner to seek federal aid to help farmers with poor forage production.

Robert Spear has asked Maine’s congressional delegation to support an agricultural disaster package that includes emergency aid for farmers whose crops were not lost but have lower nutritional value than usual.

“While we are not assured Congress will pass a disaster package, it’s clear that there is a growing need in Maine and elsewhere for emergency assistance,” he said.

While most dairy farmers were not affected by the weather, livestock operators and others who grow hay for a living have complained to Spear about poor cuttings and poor quality. He said hay prices, which average between $3.50 and $4 a bale, could go as high as $6.

Affected farmers should contact county Federal Service Agency offices to qualify for any disaster program, and must document their quality-loss claims, Spear said.

“If farmers haven’t documented their losses, they will not be eligible for federal disaster assistance,” he said. “I encourage growers to keep records, whether measurements by approved consultants or test results from an approved lab.”

Wet and cloudy weather has kept Jeffrey Bragg from cutting the grass in his fields in Sidney. Bragg sells hay to horse owners for feed, but needs two or three days of dry weather to work.

If it rains after Bragg begins mowing but before he gets the hay in, its nutritional value would be lost and he would have to sell it as mulch at a lower price.

“I would have hoped to bring it in by now,” Bragg said.

AP-ES-08-21-04 1152EDT

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