Hail Damages Valley Ag

June 5, 2009 5:39:21 PM PDT
Recent storms did not cause widespread Ag damage in the Valley but two strong cells brought hail to the Helm area in western Fresno County. Severe crop damage was reported.Helm area grower Don Cameron said he is looking at losses of over a million dollars. Cameron said "It's devastating to come out to come out and see a whole field loss as bad is this one is here."

Cameron had never seen this kind of tomato damage. His processing tomatoes were shaken off their vines just a month before harvest. He says it took all of 15 minutes to strip produce down to the stem and ruin 600 acres of what was going to be a very good crop headed to the cannery.

Cameron said, "We've got tomatoes that have been knocked off and thrown to the ground by the hail last night. The vines they're damaged. They look like someone took a hammer to them. The leaves are stripped."

Leaves which remained were left with big holes caused by hail up to an inch-and-a-half in diameter. Cameron says tomatoes which survived the storm will be treated with fungicide but feels he may lose as much as two thirds of his crop. He explained, "A lot of these tomatoes that are still on the vine have been hit with hail. They'll develop disease. They'll probably rot."

Tree fruit also was affected. Prunes were knocked to the ground long before what would have been an abundant harvest.

Fresno County Deputy Ag Commissioner Thomas Nyberg said, "A farmer tries to go in and prune off the stuff that's not going to be his highest quality fruit. Nature just takes whatever's in its path."

Cameron says his crop damage is not covered by insurance. The Ag Department says the heavy hail damage was concentrated in western Fresno County. Cotton, onions and grapes were also reported to sustain some damage.

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