Sunny Slope fruit grower Stanley Robison said it may take years to determine the damage to trees from December's record cold snap, but he and others predict a chilling effect on southwestern Idaho's farm economy.
"Apples aren't hurt any to speak of, but there is no doubt about it, the peaches and nectarines are 100 percent lost," he said as he inspected his Caldwell-area orchards on Friday. "The buds are black. They're just shot down."About 90 percent of the apricot crop is ruined, and Robison expects to harvest a plum crop one-third of the size it should be.
Canyon and Gem counties are asking Gov. Cecil Andrus to issue a disaster declaration to pave the way for farmers to arrange low-interest federal loans. Initial estimates show losses of $7 million for Canyon County growers alone.
"It's really hard to tell the extent of the damage yet," said Sandy Sanders, an owner of Sanders Orchards in Emmett. "But anytime it gets that cold that long, there is bound to be damage."
Beyond this year's fruit crop, growers may not know the full extent of December's devastating weather for years.
"There is quite a little concern for the tree itself," said Gerald Elson, chairman of a fact committee for the Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation Service in Gem County.
"The tree itself could die if there is enough damage. It weakens it to the point where diseases and parasites can take over, and we wouldn't know for two to four years," he said.
While grape growers are going to have a lean year, the lack of grapes should not affect Ste. Chapelle's wine supply.
"There is definitely severe damage to the grapes and we're not planning on very much of anything," said Kathy Mertz, general manager of Ste. Chapelle. "As a winery we plan for these things and run a little bit of a surplus on good years."