Farmers say their tomatoes are dying

By Brandi Hodges - bio | email

TRUMANN, AR (KAIT) - Some Region 8 tomato farmers are seeing red and it's not from their produce.  They say their crops are dying off and that's causing them to lose a lot of green!

"They're small.  They're deformed and they're pointed on the end," said Melvin Messer.

Messer is describing the fruit of his income.  His crop of tomatoes is not what it should be.  He said herbicides are to blame.

"We had it this bad in 1993 but then it cooled down a little bit but I've had parts of it ever since 1992,"s aid Messer.

"It's getting kind of hard to get our customers high quality fruit anywhere in Arkansas," said Gary Goodwin.

Garden after garden tomatoes all seem to have the same problem.

"Folks that come here for my tomatoes think they've got some sort of disease and when I ask if the leaves are curled up and the blooms have fallen off of their plants they'll say that's exactly what happened," said Messer.

Farmers from Mississippi County to Craighead County say they are losing money.

"Sometimes it makes you want to quit!  I'm 81-years-old and I've been growing tomatoes all my life and I just hate to quit," said Messer.

"This is a problem that needs to be corrected," said Goodwin.

Goodwin said one herbicide they've been dealing with for years is called Facet.  He believes that and a couple others are responsible for his failing crops.

"We don't really know exactly what it is we're getting here and why we're getting so much of it," said Goodwin.

Goodwin said 90% of his tomato crop is destroyed.  In fact, at his produce stand in Trumann, he's having to sell produce from other parts of the state.

"Somebody needs to recognize this problem a lot farther than the plant board and I pray that our farmers can understand and see what is happened here," said Goodwin.

The Pesticide Division of the Arkansas State Plant Board does have open investigations into Messer and Goodwin's problems.  They say this problem could be caused by herbicides or disease.

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