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Farm News: Two Counties Added To Ginseng Disastercomments
Governor Jim Doyle has requested U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declare a disaster in Lincoln and Langlade Counties, where snow and ice in early May severely damaged the ginseng crop. The request expands Governor Doyle’s May 12 request for a disaster declaration in Marathon County.
Wisconsin produces 95 percent of the nation’s ginseng, and most of that is produced in Marathon, Lincoln and Langlade Counties. A disaster declaration would allow eligible farmers to receive emergency loans and secure crop insurance payments.
On May 7, four inches of heavy wet snow fell on north central Wisconsin, collapsing most of the shade coverings that protect the light-sensitive ginseng plants from the sun. Freezing temperatures the next night damaged or killed a large percentage of the plants. The plants that survived the initial damage could die in the coming weeks from excessive light exposure.
Ginseng takes three to six years to reach maturity and be harvested, and can be planted on any given parcel of land only once. Considering the impact snow and weather conditions have had on ginseng plants, it’s likely there will be significant losses to the industry.
Wisconsin has about 200 ginseng growers, with about 1,400 acres in production. The state’s climate and soil, and the growers’ long experience, have led customers to regard Wisconsin ginseng as the world’s highest quality cultivated ginseng. In 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the state’s ginseng farmers harvested 400,000 pounds of ginseng, worth $10 million.