Good point Lenno. I guess it would take full disclosure for me to really want to pay $35 bucks to hunt and dig seng. I mean I would want to know or have access to information pertaining to where and how the money would be spent. Something like this hypothetical scenario below:
Hypothetical % For Total Funds From $35 per License per digger. Based on a real 55,000 lbs of dried Wild and Wild Simulated ginseng root being exported out of the USA. Figuring conservatively if each digger digs 2 lbs on average then that is = to 27,500 diggers buying a $35 license. That is = $962,500 in revenue from license to be divided up in approx 19 states that have wild ginseng. Keep in mind the 55,000 lbs is wild and wild simulated and does not include WI cultivated seng. So these are real lbs being harvested from the wild and wild simulated only. Its about 13 million plants by the way.
Here is where that $962,500 could be spent and the %
10% - Education on ethical practices at time of permit or license
30% - Purchase seed to re-grow Wild Simulated private & state land
50% - Additional Game Wardens monitoring private and state land to prevent as much poaching as possible.
10% - Prosecuting Attorney Fees to fine and send poachers to jail.
I have offered to start a Ginseng Growers & Diggers Association. All anyone needed to do is contact me via email and I sent the information they needed to get signed up. However, even though the site is there and running (and I cannot mention it on this forum), and some have signed up, and most importantly the member list is totally confidential with the exception of screen names, it seems there just isn't enough interest to make this happen. I'm holding it open at the moment, but unless enough people get interested in the next few months I'll give up on the idea all together.
I have long been opposed to unreasonable governmental regulation and control in anything.
However, I think the laws that regulate ginseng at the moment (at least in this state...and more likely federally) should be changed in a few ways. First of all, I think once a grower plants a seed, it should be their crop even if it is indeed considered wild. Currently, at least in Ohio, the ownership defaults to the state until a legal plant is legally harvested.
The current issue over smaller roots is one that I'm afraid cannot be fixed without regulation. However, there is little practical application and method to enforce what diggers dig when the rules say 3 prongs and red berries. I've seen folks bring me small stuff and swear they were at least 3 prong plants...only to have them come up as 5-leafers the next spring (I planted them back).
The dealers are in the middle. If they get too picky on the smaller stuff, they will not buy as much large valuable stuff. Also, the more you pick through a lot the more damage and fiber you create.
Therefore, I've come to champion a two-prong approach to this issue:
1) A legal penalty against dealers who try to certify obviously underage/undersize roots. I think anything with less than 4 neck scares (within reason of course) is a good rule of thumb. As long as some dealers buy this stuff for top price, other dealers will be hesitant to turn it away, and uncaring diggers will keep digging it.
2) Licensing of diggers. I'm not suggesting a license like a fishing license or such, but more so a certification which shows that a digger has completed a basic educational course on the laws and best stewardship practices. In states where there are online systems for hunting and fishing licenses and game checking, this would be relatively easy to roll out. Just have the digger log on, complete the educational course (prolly less than an hour) and print out their digging license which will have their digger/license number printed thereon. This must be present for a dealer to legally buy the ginseng and can be just one more column on the buying documentation. I was honestly thinking of $0-$5 for the license.
Certainly, this will take some time to roll out and a couple years to get the word out and transition in the new system. I have a meeting set on May 14 with the Ohio Ginseng Management team. If anyone has better ideas, I'd love to hear them.