, Muskogee, OK

November 24, 2008

Governor asks for federal help for pecan farmers

By Donna Hales

Jim and Linda Lamb of Lamb’s Nut Farm near Whitefield have no pecan crop this year but have purchased pecans to satisfy their return customers.

“We have zero crop — worst year we’ve ever had,” said Jim Lamb, 61. “I’m harvesting a few natives north of Porum — but that crop is 60 percent lost.”

Pecan farmers in 43 Oklahoma counties are so hard hit that Gov. Brad Henry is seeking federal aid for them. Those counties include Haskell, McIntosh, Muskogee and Wagoner counties.

Henry and the farmers blame the problem on the 2007 ice storm, cold weather in April and October, all followed by heavy rains from hurricanes.

Lamb said part of his problem was a drought in July, August and September and then a January ice storm that put too much stress on his trees along the Canadian River.

He thought since a lot of the pecan trees were 60 years old that they could stand the stress, he said. He lamented this year was so bad that next year would have to be better.

“It’s a farm thing,” he said. “But I never thought I’d go through a season and get completely skunked — but this year we got skunked. We were completely devastated by the ice storm.”

Richard Johnson of Johnson’s Nutty Acre off South 490 Road, near the Cherokee’s casino outside Tahlequah, said he got through the weather but had an equipment breakdown three weeks ago as he began harvesting his crop.

“The crows were having a ball,” Johnson said.

As well as operating a pecan orchard, he does commercial cracking for customers from Stilwell, Checotah, Arkansas, Fort Gibson and Muskogee.

And he’s knee-deep in pecans to crack, he said. He’s not wanting any new custom cracking jobs until after Dec. 1, he said.

“Some crops you can’t ask for a better pecan, and the next bunch is not as good,” he said.

A lot of papershell pecans affected by the early freeze are what are called “sticktights” (meat stuck to the shell), he said. “I have a few papershells, but I never rely on them because crows and squirrels beat me to them.”

The shortage of pecans probably will affect the price to the consumer, he said. What will that price be?

“Just how much nerve you got when you price ‘em,” he said.

He said his pecan meats sell for $6.50 per pound.

He said he buys black walnuts for another company, and it’s a record year for them.

List of counties

Pecan farmers Gov. Brad Henry is seeking a disaster declaration and financial help for include: Alfalfa, Atoka, Bryan, Carter, Choctaw, Cleveland, Coal, Cotton, Craig, Creek, Garvin, Grant, Hughes, Jefferson, Johnston, Kay, Lincoln, Love, Major, McClain, McCurtain, Marshall, Mayes, Murray, Nowata, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Okmulgee, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Rogers, Seminole, Stephens, Tulsa and Washington.

Reach Donna Hales at 918-684-2923 or Click Here to Send Email