Middle Georgia pecan and peach growers who sustained orchard damage during the severe storm that swept through Crawford, Houston and Peach counties on Friday, May 2, can apply for assistance in financing the clean-up of storm debris, the Georgia Farm Service Agency has announced.
The USDA has requested $350,000 in funds to help farmers in Peach County, $30,000 for farmers in Crawford County and $30,000 for farmers in Houston County, says Cynthia Valles, a spokeswoman with the Georgia FSA office.
Pecan trees reportedly were uprooted from the ground during the storm, in which winds were clocked as high as 70 miles per hour. While some peach trees were completely lost, most of the damage to middle Georgia peach orchards consisted of broken branches and fruit knocked off prematurely.
“We probably lost between 600 to 800 pecan trees in the middle Georgia area, and we saw a lot of peaches on the ground,” says Duke Lane, state committee chair for the Georgia FSA. “A lot of producers had to rent equipment and hire labor to clean up their orchards.”
Lane estimates it costs a producer $200 per pecan tree to cover the labor and equipment needed for storm cleanup. It's important for pecan producers to remove fallen trees and debris from the aisles of the pecan orchards so trucks can drive undeterred through the orchards to spray fungicides.
Many of the trees lost to the storm were older and in the prime of their production, with some being as old as 60 years, says Lane. “With pecan trees being that old, it's hard to put a price tag on its value. It takes a lot to get a tree in production and to the point to where it can produce 300 pounds of nuts per year.”
Despite the storm damage, Lane is still optimistic about this year's peach and pecan crops. “We've got the biggest crop of peaches and pecans we've had in some time, so the damage could have been much worse.”