Aid Requested for State Pecan Farmers


Saturday, November 29th 2008, 7:39 pm
By: News 9


By Jacqueline Sit, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Earlier this week, Governor Brad Henry requested federal aid for pecan farmers. This disaster declaration would cover pecan farmers in 43 counties across the state.

Governor Henry made the request because farmers were hit hard by severe weather last year.

From last year's ice storm to the cold weather this fall and heavy rains from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in September, the crops have been affected significantly by the weather.

The governor said pecan farmers around the state will need federal help to get back on their feet.

"When the trees are weakened like that, they are more susceptible to disease and insect damage, and that was kind of a triple play against them and we're really going to have one of the shortest crops in years," Jack Carson with the Oklahoma Dept. of Agriculture said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the pecan crop in the state will be up to 15 million pounds, which is half of what was produced last year.

"We had some trees that were completely dehorned," Diana Couch said.

Diane Couch's family orchard has been around for generations, and it took four months to clean up Couch Pecan Orchard after the ice storm.

"Our business has been pretty slow," Couch said.

But Couch said many of her customers show up surprised to see there is no shortage of pecans. Her harvest is healthy despite the crop being down.

"The media's been saying a lot of negative things about the pecan crop. It isn't statewide, but it can be orchard to orchard, it can vary," Couch said.

In the metro, Wilbert Wallace and his wife have set shop for over 20 years.

"The pecan business has been real good," Wallace said.

Wallace has been selling produce and pecans aplenty but prices have peaked for those nuts about pecans.

"I try to stay within price range of 25 to 50 cents more a pound," Wallace said.

If the request for federal aid is approved, growers can qualify for low-interest loans, but the aid would not provide direct payments to growers.