Several local farmers recently took time away from the busy harvest season to help Texas ranchers in need.

Struggling to feed their livestock due to the extreme drought the state has been experiencing, many Texas ranchers have been forced to sell their livestock.

Rev. Harold McMillin, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Luana, learned about the Texas farmers' need during the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly held in Orlando, Fla. in August.

Since there was an abundant hay crop in Northeast Iowa this year, he decided to organize a cross-country hay lift. The three ELCA bishops from Iowa then met with the three ELCA bishops from Texas to plan a joint project. The Northeast Iowa Synod was designated as a pilot synod to get the project off the ground.

Pastor Gene Hermeier of Decorah learned about the effort and discussed it with his congregation at Glenwood Lutheran Church.

Several congregation members responded, and last week two flatbed semi-trucks were each loaded with 45,000 pounds of hay -- 28 round bales.

"It wasn't hard at all," Hermeier said of getting his congregation to respond.

Farmers contributing hay included Gary and Debbi Smorstad and their sons Carl and Eric, Russ and Tina McIntosh, Roger and LeAnn Espe, Bob and Juanita Ruen and Gary and Jennie Johnson.

Orabel Ehrie donated the use of her tractor, and her son, Byron Ehrie, helped load the bales onto the flatbed truck.

Lutheran Disaster Relief and Lutherans of Texas funds covered the cost of transportation, $2,375 per truck. With hay selling for about $80 a round bale, Hermeier said each load of hay was worth approximately $2,240.

Hermeier said his parishioners are "quietly proud" their hay is helping Texas ranchers feed their cattle.

"They're Norwegians - they don't lay it all out there," he said, chuckling.

In addition to the hay donated through his church, Hermeier said Iowans have donated more than 20 semi loads of hay to Texans.