|By DOUG GRAVES
BROOKVILLE, Ohio — When Ohio cattleman Duane Plessinger read about the tragedy surrounding cattlemen in Louisiana after Hurricane Rita, he knew he just couldn’t stand by and do nothing. After reading about the heartbreak of one farmer’s plight, Plessinger got other members of the Montgomery County Cattlemen’s Assoc. involved in lending their support.
“As a member of a cattlemen’s association and a farmer in this area, I understand the value of agriculture,” Plessinger said. “We know what it means to be in agriculture, and we don’t want to see anyone lose their lifestyle or heritage. We decided these farmers and ranchers should remain this way.
“We’re not helping just one farmer; we want to help everybody in that area. We’re dealing with a county extension agent and a Cargill feed dealer out of Baton Rouge.”
A news article about a cattleman from Vermillion Parish, La. caught the attention of Plessinger. So much so that he put his emotions into action.
“There was a news report about a man named Charles Broussard in Vermillion Parish, La. who suffered $1 million in damages due to the hurricane, so I wrote to him and offered him my help,” Plessinger said. “We had been trying to deal with state organizations and got nowhere. Three or four days later Broussard called me and accepted our help. He said, ‘We need your help.’ We’re going to give him and others the help they need.”
According to Plessinger, Broussard’s farm started in 1765 and the Louisiana farmer is a ninth generation farmer who plans on passing the farm on to his children for a 10th generation.
“We’d love to see that happen,” Plessinger said. “We want to see them continue in farming. This has been a learning experience. When one door shuts, another one opens. The pieces just keep falling together and this continues to grow.”
Plessinger and his backers intend on sending thousands of bales of hay to help cattlemen of Vermillion Parish. Cattlemen in that area, located southwest of Lafayette, have lost 6,000 head of cattle and 60,000 acres of pasture due to the hurricane.
“Much attention has been given to New Orleans and the needs of its residents, but little has been given to the agricultural side of the state,” Plessinger said. “Unlike Ohio, which has agriculture as its number one industry, only 10 percent of Louisiana’s revenue is from agriculture.”
A convoy of vehicles loaded with hay was formed on Dec. 2 at Keller’s Feed and Grain on Upper Lewisburg-Salem Road in Brookville.
“We’re involving the Montgomery County Cattlemen’s Assoc. and the Montgomery County chapter of the Ohio Horse Council,” Plessinger said. “We’re starting out small but this process will grow and grow.”
Barge companies located on the Ohio River have offered their services free of charge and will transport the hay straight to the destination. Normally such an expense would fetch $40,000.
Plessinger’s biggest hurdle is getting drivers to volunteer time and trucks to transport the grain to the Ohio River near Cincinnati.
According to Plessinger, it takes 750 bales of hay to fill a barge. He said it will take 20 semi loads to fill one barge.
The grain sent will be divided by extension services in Louisiana and will be allotted according to the size of the farms and their needs.
“They need hay and other feed, but they have other problems,” Plessinger said. “Their fences were washed away by the hurricane so they have no way of confining their cattle.”
The Montgomery County Cattlemen treasury is paying the initial amount of $4,000 for feed. Plessinger hopes to get donations to offset most of the expenses.
Plessinger is then taking his efforts to the Ohio Cattlemen’s Assoc. and the Ohio Beef Council. He hopes to have the help from Ohio border states.
Anyone wanting to donate their time or feed can reach Plessinger by calling 937-902-5302 or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This Ohio farm news was published in the December 7, 2005 issue of Farm World.