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Walker Seeks Federal Aid For Wisconsin Ginseng Growers

Crops Hit Hard By Late Freeze, Heavy Rains

Wisconsin ginseng growing
Wisconsin ginseng is grown almost exclusively in Marathon County, and the majority of its market is in Chinese exports. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (CC-BY-NC)

Gov. Scott Walker is asking for a federal disaster declaration for ginseng growers in central Wisconsin hit hard by the weather in spring and early summer.

There was a late freeze in May, followed by heavy rains that continued into June. Joe Heil, president of the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin, said the two events decimated this year’s crop and may affect next year’s.

“Foliar disease, root disease, blight — basically, all the things … will kill the plant. And if the plant’s not there, we do not have root to sell, nor do we have seed for replanting. So it’s kind of a double whammy,” Heil said.

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The growers lost an estimated 28 percent of the crop and 50 percent of the seed. As a result, Walker is asking for a federal disaster declaration for Langlade, Lincoln and Marathon counties.

Wisconsin is the leading producer of ginseng in the nation. The state’s growers have a $200 million contract with a Chinese distributor.