Contacts: Laura Smith, Office of the Governor, 608-261-2162
Paul Dietmann, DATCP, 608-224-5038
MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today requested U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to declare a disaster in Marathon County, where snow and ice in early May severely damaged the ginseng crop.
Wisconsin produces 95 percent of the nation’s ginseng, and most of that is produced in Marathon County. 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 Marathon County, 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.
“Wisconsin is internationally known and recognized for its high-quality ginseng,” Governor Doyle said. “Replacing the crop that was lost will require growers to incur significant costs to establish new beds, construct new shade structures, and other expenses.”
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.
Ginseng growers who have experienced crop losses are encouraged to contact their local FSA office to report damage and receive updates about FSA programs.