They invited him to commemorate their efforts, but he brought fencing supplies with him.
But that’s kind of the point.
Everyone involved with the months-long work to send aid to Nebraskan farmers hard-hit by flooding said it was about people helping each other — farmers helping other farmers.
“I got home and it was dark last night and I went out in the shed. ... And I was sorting through my post piles and I was having a hard time coming up with a good, straight 6-foot post,” said Rushville farmer John Sullivan, director of Illinois Department of Agriculture. “But I think I’ve got 30 or 40 in the back of the truck.”
Morgan County farmers and the Cass-Morgan Farmer Bureau came up with the plan in March and, with the help of Sullivan’s department, spread the word across Illinois.
Lindsay McQueen, Cass-Morgan Farm Bureau manager, said the farm bureau has received and organized around $7,000 in in-kind donations of hay and fencing supplies, and close to $12,000 in cash donations — including a $1,000 donation Sullivan pledged June 11 from his family’s auction company.
Three trips have been made so far, taking loads of needed hay and supplies.
After hearing from Cass-Morgan Farm Bureau, Sullivan reached out to his counterpart in Nebraska, Steve Wellman, to tell them Illinois farmers wanted to help.
“And that started the discussion about what they needed,” Sullivan said. “They needed hay; they needed fencing supplies. Of course, Nebraska is a big cattle country out there and there are a lot of fences that were destroyed by the flooding. With that information, working with some of the other state agencies, just trying to figure out how to get it to them and so on and so forth.”
The Midwest has faced a relentless spring of flooding and storms this year.
March flooding in Nebraska endangered homes, destroyed farms, killed livestock and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in grain and livestock losses, according to reporting by the Associated Press. Levees breached in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri after flooding was spurred by a winter storm in mid-March.
More than two-thirds of Nebraska counties were under a disaster declaration.
Gary Hadden, a Morgan County farmer and one of those spearheading the effort, was hearing from farmers in Nebraska about what was happening there, but then photos started coming out of the region.
“Complete farms just getting completely wiped out. And floodwaters is one thing, but they had these ice chunks that were the size of pickup trucks and bigger — and it’s just blowing through the sides of their buildings, houses. They couldn’t get out,” Hadden said. “They took the clothes on their backs and that was it.”
Some of the farmers they have met taking loads of supplies have a long road ahead.
“When (Jay Harris) dropped off some hay to a rancher out there, they was in really dire need of it because his pastures have got 3 feet of sand on them,” Hadden said. “What do you do with a pasture with 3 feet of sand? I mean, that’s going to take a long time.”
Doug Coop, another Morgan County farmer involved in organizing the aid, said it’s just the right thing to do to help those in a more difficult situation than themselves — including the farmers in Nebraska and other parts of Illinois.
“It’s been a rough year for farmers around here — probably one of the worst we’ve seen in decades, as far as trying to get the crop in and the water and everything else we’ve been dealing with,” Coop said. “... We’ve just got to keep in mind that it can always be worse.”
Sullivan said when they began, the Illinois farmers couldn’t have foreseen the flooding and late planting they would face later in the spring.
“But even setting that aside, that’s what the farm community does,” Sullivan said. “That’s what we’re known for — just getting in and helping out folks that need it. Hopefully someday if we need assistance here, there will be folks to help us, as well.”