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Mid-Mich. Farm: Drought Killing Christmas Trees

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MASON (WWJ/AP) - A mid-Michigan farm reports the drought is responsible for killing many newly planted Christmas trees.

Mel Koelling has been growing Christmas trees at Tannenbaum Farms in the Mason area for about 35 years. He said older trees typically are more drought-resistant and are doing alright, but he’s lost about 4,000 of the roughly 10,000 new Christmas trees.

“It gets to you if you’re in the field everyday,” Koelling told WILX-TV. “There’s a lot of work involved.  Each of these trees are replanted by hand, put in ground, watered, mulched. You do that 4,000 times and that’s a lot of back-breaking work.”

Similar problems have been reported in Wisconsin.

It takes about seven to 10 years to grow most standard-sized Christmas trees. Koelling said he’ll try to make up for losses by planting twice as many next year.

Koelling is also keeping an eye on the weather as summer continues. If drought conditions remain, he said there could be more Christmas trees killed.

Federal officials say more than 90 percent of Michigan is experiencing moderate to extreme drought conditions and as a result, they’ve sent U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack throughout state to talk with farmers who are eligible for low-interest loans.

“We’ve also worked with crop insurance companies to make sure that when premium notices come out here in August, that folks have an extra month to pay those premiums before they start having interest assessed against the unpaid premium,” said Vilsack.

Vilsack said more disaster relief is contained in a bill which is languishing in Congress.

“The best opportunity for help and assistance would be for the House of Representatives to complete its work on what I refer to as the food, farm and jobs bill, because that contains disaster assistance and can provide much more help and assistance, particularly to livestock producers and potentially specialty crop producers here in Michigan,” said Vilsack.

Across the country, more than 1,300 counties have been declared disaster areas because of the drought.

TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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