Storm hit: Jefferson Co. farmers' losses in millions

Violent thunderstorms leave crops in ruins

Madras farmers face major storm crop losses

MADRAS, Ore. - Gary Harris moved to Madras in the 1940s with his father and has been farming there ever since. 

Over the decades, Harris has seen many storms pass through Central Oregon -- but none like the one that hit his community Sunday afternoon.

"'I've been farming here for 45 years, and this two-mile-wide storm was the most economically damaging storm I've ever seen," Harris said Tuesday.

The storm dumped three to four inches of thumbnail-sized hail on Harris's crops, hitting his carrot seed crop especially hard. Plantings that once stood 3 1/2-feet tall now lie flat on the ground.

Harris is far from the only farmer affected in the area, as many have seen vast economic damage from this storm.

A total 80 to 85 percent of carrot seed actually comes from Central Oregon. The High Desert climate is just right for producing seed producing vegetables because of the warm days and cool nights.

Central Oregon Seed Inc. has been out assessing the damage since Sunday's storm. They look for damage on a scale of 1 to 5, one being no damage and five being a complete loss.

"Right now, we have about 6,000 to 7,000 acres of severe damage," said Greg Williams of Central Oregon Seed.

Harris said there are millions of dollars in losses overall.

"I have growers that have 30-40 acres, I have some that have 150-180 acres," Williams said. "So it costs $2,500 to $3,00 an acre for those crops."

It's a lot of money lost, and the timing of the storm couldn't have been worse.

"Most of these carrot crops have been in the ground for 12 months, and (the farmers) have been in and out of them for 52 weeks. And here harvest was coming -- and they've lost them," Williams said.

Not only did they lose the ready-to-harvest carrots, but 10 days ago, they planted the carrots for next year's crop. They are still waiting to see what will happen with those, as the fields saw a lot of rainfall.

Many farmers cannot afford private crop insurance, the farmers said -- and they aren't expecting much help from the government, because there has to be a certain level of damage per farm before they qualify for disaster assistance.

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