- Associated Press - Friday, March 10, 2017

NYSSA, Ore. (AP) - Workers are rushing to rebuild onion storage and packing facilities that were damaged by snow and ice in eastern Oregon and Idaho.

Four feet of snow and ice crushed buildings and destroyed onions and equipment inside in January, The Capital Press reported Thursday (https://is.gd/ydwRhf ). Estimates place the total damage between $50 million and $100 million, including the loss of about 100 million pounds of onions - about 7 percent of this year’s crop.

About 60 storage sheds and packing facilities either collapsed or sustained major damage this winter.

The onion industry is working to fix the damage before fall’s more than 1 billion pound harvest. Most of the Spanish big bulb onions that grow along the border between southwestern Idaho and southeastern Oregon are stored to be marketed later in the year.

Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, Oregon, lost four storage sheds, which had a combined capacity of about 33 million pounds of onions. The company’s packing facility was damaged but is still operating.

General Manager Shay Myers said the shipper lost 22 million pounds of onions. In all, he estimates the company sustained about $10 million in damage to buildings.

Myers said rebuilding will cause significant financial pain, but overall it will make for a better company.

“It’s forced us to make some changes that, frankly, otherwise we would have taken longer to do,” he said.

Those changes include updates to technology in storage sheds and additional automation in packing facilities.

“I don’t mean it’s a positive thing that this happened but the end result will be positive for the industry as a whole because it forces updates that otherwise wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

The rebuilding is under a right deadline. The 2017 harvest will start in earnest in September and wrap up by mid-October.

Snake River Produce in Nyssa lost three of its storage sheds and three sheds that it leased, said General Manager Kay Riley.

Riley said some of the storage sheds that were lost were owned by individual farmers. It’s unknown how many of those structures had adequate insurance and how many will be rebuilt. Riley said like Myers he believes the rebuilding will be good for the industry.

“But in the short-term I’m very … concerned because I don’t think there’s enough contractors, time, money and insurance claims to get all of this put back together by this fall,” Riley said.

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Information from: Capital Press, https://www.capitalpress.com/washington

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