Amid the most devastating drought in the Northern Plains in decades, a farm aid nonprofit has reached another milestone.

North Dakota-based Farm Rescue, which expanded into its sixth state earlier this year, is helping its 500th case this week — a south central North Dakota rancher who lost his right arm in a hay baling machine accident this past summer.

While dealing with the loss of the arm, Doug Bichler also dealt with severe drought on his ranch near Linton.

"Like many others affected by the drought this summer, we're a bit short on hay," he said. "Through some generous donations we're going to be able to get some ... from the northeastern part of the state."

Farm Rescue volunteers this week are delivering the hay to Bichler's farm. It's the 500th aid case for the organization since it was launched in 2005 by Bill Gross, who grew up on a North Dakota farm and now flies a cargo plane for a living but wants to stay connected to his rural roots.

"There is no better reward in life than to help those who have experienced unexpected crises," said Gross, who serves as Farm Rescue's president and also often uses his vacation time to help with the manual labor.

Farm Rescue provides free physical labor for farmers and ranchers in need in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska, which it began serving with haying and hay-hauling help this year. Other services in its territory include crop planting and harvesting, and grain-hauling. It relies on about 1,100 volunteers from around the country, donated equipment and money donations, operating on an annual budget just under $1 million.

Bichler, 37, is still recovering from his ordeal and said the assistance from Farm Rescue will help him keep his herd of cattle.

"I don't think we'll have to downsize," he said. "I don't think we'll have a lot of hay left over, but I think we'll be able to get through the winter.

"With everything going on in the world, it's reassuring to know that there's still a lot of good out there," Bichler said.