Friday, November 30, 2001

Isle farmers welcome rain
after several years of drought

By Lisa Asato

This week's heavy rains provided much-needed relief for Hawaii farmers, and state agriculture officials say they have received no reports of major crop damage from the downpour.

"It will take several days for farmers themselves to assess the damage because they can't get into the field until they've dried out," said Janelle Saneishi, state Department of Agriculture spokeswoman.

But Saneishi and others in the agriculture industry agreed the storm helped alleviate drought throughout the state.

"It's a blessing in disguise," said Tom DeCourcy, manager of Foundation Seeds Inc. on Molokai. "We needed the rain so bad," he said, adding that his corn-seed farm "got 3.5 inches (of rain), and it soaked right in."

Although some of his crop was sitting in water yesterday, DeCourcy predicted that would dry within two days.

"The benefits outweigh the damage," he said.

"It's been so dry on Molokai that a lot of the ground is pretty bare. When you do get heavy rain, it causes erosion and runoff. It did cause that but I've seen worse," he said.

Saneishi said the Molokai reservoir rose 1 foot since Monday, adding about 25,000 gallons. She said the reservoir will continue to rise because it takes several days for the rain to settle into the reservoir.

Don Martin, state agriculture statistician, said the department has not had any reports of serious crop damage, but added: "I'm sure there's some isolated (crop damage). There usually is."

He said the rain was widespread over the state, hopefully helping some harder-hit agricultural segments like cattle ranchers in Maui and farmers in Kona.

"The lack of (storms) in recent years has been a very hard thing for agriculture," he said. "We're going through three, four, five years of very dry winters. That's hit agricultural industries real hard."

He said the storm was a positive thing for growers, and most farmers would welcome more.

"We need several of them like this winter ... just not all at once," he said.

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