The ginseng industry took a big hit from recent bad weather, but just how big is not yet known.
Experts are still assessing the damage from snow and freezing temperatures earlier this month. “Just the loss of income — gross income to the farmers — certainly would be in excess of $5 million. Then if you take that and do a ripple effect through the economy.”
Butch Weege (wee-gee), executive director of the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin, says the unseasonable snowstorm on Mother’s Day weekend collapsed the plastic shade covers. In the past, ginseng was protected from the sun with structures made of wood, which were better suited to withstand the heavy snow. But only 20-percent of the crops now are shaded with the stronger wood coverings.
Weege says they don’t yet know the full extent of the damage. He says it’s being assessed by the experts as we speak. “This is an ongoing thing that can sort of trickle out over the next three to four growing cycles yet before we may rid ourselves of it and have a full assessment of what happened.
Weege says, that’s because each crop takes three or four years to grow. All stages of the plant were affected in some manner, from seedlings to the older three-to-four year old mature roots. Considering 80-percent of the ginseng is covered with plastic, which collapsed under the heavy snow, most of the crop was likely killed or damaged.
Wisconsin grows about 95% of the total ginseng crop in the United States, with approximately 200 such farmers. In 2007, the state’s ginseng growers harvested 400,000 pounds of the herb, worth $10 million.
Governor Jim Doyle last week requested a federal disaster declaration for ginseng growers in the Wausau area.
Jackie Johnson report 1:55