Wild three prong ginseng plant in Calhoun County
Three year old intentionally planted West Virginia "wild simulated" ginseng
which cannot be distinguished from wild ginseng in appearance or chemical
content, grown in Calhoun
Ginseng diggers, growers and sellers, you're likely dead in the water.
A new federal rule change announced Friday will cost rural West
Virginia millions of dollars by largely outlawing the export sale of wild ginseng
in the world market.
Sangin' has been a part of the rural Appalachian economy
for nearly 300 years.
The Bush administration imitative favors corporate growers of ginseng grown in non-woods growing environments.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service stated that the only ginseng roots that will be legal for export from the
nineteen states with established digging seasons and wild populations, which includes West Virginia, will now
be required to be at least ten years old and come from four prong ginseng
The four prong requirement was made in spite of extensive research showing
that less than 1% of all ginseng plants ever reach that size in the wild and
without consulting any of the researchers in the field.
Corporate growers can continue selling under current rules.
The agency says the restrictions are to protect the ginseng.
From New York to North Carolina, ginseng growers, root dealers and state
officials are trying to figure out how to deal with the government order that
could eliminate the "sang" business.
The announcement came as West Virginia ginseng growers and diggers wait for
the newly established September 1 date for ginseng harvest season to arrive.
In the spring of 2005 the West Virginia legislature passed the first modern
ginseng law in the Nation.
In the new law there is specific language
identifying ginseng production methods, record keeping requirements and definitions
for cultivated, woods grown, wild and wild simulated ginseng. The law was touted as a model for the rest of the nation.
In the release prepared by the FWS, there is mention that over 500,000
pounds of cultivated ginseng and 60,000 pounds of wild ginseng was exported from
the US to Asia in 2004. The release goes on to stress that only about 10% of
the exported ginseng is defined as wild. On average wild ginseng sells for
over $300/pound with an economic value Nationally that exceeds $18,000,000.
Cultivated ginseng currently sells for between $12 and $20/pound with a value
of about $6,000,000 to $10,000,000.
Ginseng researchers are upset because the rule is not based on sound science
while ginseng growers are worried about their crop becoming worthless.
rural economic development advocates are calling the ruling economic
genocide as the bulk of the wild ginseng harvest takes place in the most rural and
economically depressed areas of the Appalachian region.
The ruling caught everyone at the WV Division of Forestry by surprise, said local forester Russ Richardson. The division is charged with administering the ginseng law in WV.
Some ginseng diggers and sellers think they are being denied the opportunity to grow and sell into the world market.
Ginseng is a
native forest plant that is not on any list as a threatened or endangered
Ginseng growers say it is hard to swallow when US Fish and Wildlife has favored artificial growers.
A four-leaf ginseng plant, required in the new rules, is a hard item to come by, even after ten years of growing in the woods.