Farmers and ranchers in Utah counties that were declared agriculture disaster areas Wednesday - because of this year's disastrous drought and a killing spring frost - say any aid coming from the federal government will be too little and too late to help them.
The disaster designation applies to Utah County, hardest hit by the April 18-May 5 killing frost, and Juab and Tooele counties, among those hardest hit by the long-term drought. It also applies to all neighboring counties - Carbon, Duchesne, Salt Lake, Sanpete and Wasatch.From Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 of this year, all 29 counties in Utah were covered by a similar natural disaster declaration because of the drought, now in its fourth year.
Some other help may be available, too, including a grace period on paying taxes on cattle that have to be sold because the drought has diminished pasture and cut grain and hay production.
Bob Wright, manager of the Muir-Roberts Co., Inc., warehouse in Payson, said Wednesday his business has practically come to a standstill because the frost wiped out most of Utah County's pie cherry production and 90 percent of that county's apple harvest.
"This year's frost is one of the worst - if not the worst - Utah's fruit growers have ever had. It's fine for the federal government to declare us a disaster area, but I don't think it will help us much. By the timeyou get through all the red tape and the fine print, whatever help we get won't even cover the expenses of keeping our warehouse open."
Kenyon Farley, one of three fruit growers who own and operate Royal Apple Sales in Santaquin, said there are simply no apples on his trees. "We had zero apples. None. Our pie cherry production was down 95 percent from normal."
"I'd say our losses this year could run as high as $1.1 million or more. We have some crop insurance, but that might not even cover our expenses this year.
"Most of the growers have already borrowed about as much money as they can from local banks. We had a hailstorm in 1987 that wiped out most of the county's cherry crop. In 1988 the prices of cherries went way down and last year we had a false scare circulate about the chemical alar that ruined apple sales nationwide.
"We can't borrow more money, even if the government provides low interest rates. What are we going to pay the loans back with? Local banks don't need to lend more money. They need to get the existing loans paid off."
Farley said farmers, ranchers and fruit growers need some long-term financial help to get back on their feet and pay banks back.
Cary Peterson, Nephi, Juab County, said there may be some advantages to having his county declared a disaster area. "We're going to have to dispose of a lot of our cattle because there is no feed for them. The drought has killed off rangeland and pasture feed and greatly diminished our grain and hay production.
"I think there will be a grace period on paying taxes on the money from these forced cattle sales - giving us time to reinvest the money in more cattle later on when, or if, things get better."
Lee Hogan, Stockton, Tooele County, who raises hay and grain on more than 1,000 acres and who raises a few cattle, said Rush Valley, Grantsville and Tooele area farmers have been especially hard hit because of drought this year.
"Reservoirs and some wells have dried up. I'd say farmers in this county will sell off about a third of their cattle because of the drought and the lack of feed.