Military Help Delayed; Farmers Getting Frustrated
BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ Cooler weather has aided in the fight against ravenous grasshoppers, but farmers are frustrated by bureaucratic delays in getting more crop-dusters in the air while the insects quickly devour crops and rangeland.
″In many areas farmers are getting eaten out of house and home,″ said Gene Gibson, Gooding County agricultural extension agent. ″If I don’t get some planes up in the air pretty soon, I might as well go find another state to live in.″
Slightly lower temperatures, though still in the 80s and 90s, allowed civilian crop-dusters to spray pesticide on another 137,000 acres of southern Idaho range and farmland Thursday. Hotter weather reduces the pesticide’s effectiveness in coating the crops.
But in a blow to farmers, federal officials announced that it would be next week before military reinforcements could join the aerial war against marauding grasshoppers.
Two Air Force C-123 planes that Gov. John Evans had hoped would arrive Thursday from Ohio will not show up until late today or Saturday morning in Pocatello, said Dan Kail, spokesman for the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service that is overseeing the state spraying program.
With a day of preparation needed before the planes can take to the air, it was doubtful they could join the dozen civilian crop dusters already buzzing the south-central part of the state before Sunday, Kail said.
The Air Force planes, capable of treating 10,000 acres of land an hour, would spray the Raft River area of Cassia County, said Elmer Russell, chief of the Idaho Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Feed and Plant Services.
Two more civilian planes and a helicopter from Arizona also were scheduled to join the grasshopper squadron today to handle spraying more than 190,000 acres on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.
The help can’t come too soon for farmers and ranchers who have been waiting two weeks or more for planes to spray their land.
Some have paid as much as $1,000 to be included in the federal program and have had to watch their crops destroyed as equipment shortages and an exploding grasshopper population delay spray dates.
″A lot of them have put their last dime into this spraying program, and many are saying if this doesn’t work, they’ve had it,″ Gibson said.
Invading grasshoppers are toppling half-inch-thick corn stalks in the Boise area, sidestepping the carcasses of insects that succumbed to poisons sprayed on borders separating crops from rangeland.
Boise residents are finding the insects blanketing their lawns and patios.
″I have to sweep the porch before I can get in the house, there are so many of them,″ said Gladys Sellars.
In the 16 days of spraying so far, just over 800,000 acres of land have been treated.
In Utah, heat continued to play havoc with spraying schedules, as temperatures reached the 90s in the northern part of the state.
The spraying began Tuesday morning, with planes making at least two runs each day on Curlew and Hansel valleys 80 miles west of Brigham City, Kirk Miles, a spokesman for Globe Air Inc. of Mesa, Ariz., said Thursday.