Posts Tagged “California weather”
By Patrick Prior, ALC Los Angeles
The unpredictable weather patterns in California this year have profoundly impacted many industries, particularly the produce industry. Prior to January 2023, 80% of California was listed as having severe drought conditions or worse. Now, the Salinas Valley, known as the “Salad Bowl of the World,” has experienced devastating floods and crop damage, resulting in shortages, increased market prices, and substantial financial losses for growers. The flooding has impacted the readiness of spring produce such as lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and strawberries. Some areas of the Salinas Valley have received 600% above historical rainfall amounts. Additionally, the rainfall has raised many concerns about California’s ability to properly store water. A significant amount of the rainwater gets washed into the ocean. To better enhance water storage capacity, California is investing in projects such as constructing underground reservoirs and replenishing aquifers. Many feel an underground storage system will be a much more effective way to capture water as opposed to existing reservoirs. California will also be looking to promote more effective water conservation policies. A resilient water storage system will provide a huge relief to California growers, not only to protect from flood damage but to have more water resources available during heavy drought periods.
The Salinas Valley holds roughly 450,000 plantable vegetable acres and supplies 80% of the country’s vegetable production from April to July. The total crop and infrastructure damage is estimated to exceed $500 million, per the Produce News. Many planted crops have been lost, and the fields need time to dry out before farmers can replant. This has added significant complexity to operations, and growers still have customer requirements to meet. Many growers have responded quickly to combat these challenges. Some have increased production in other growing regions, including Yuma, Florida, and Mexico. California growers have continued to collaborate and show adaptability to ever-changing conditions.
In the end, many expected that the supply chain would recover, and market prices would drop to normal and we are already seeing progress. While the floods and crop damage in the Salinas Valley have caused a noticeable ripple in the supply chain, the California produce community will adapt and adopt innovative technologies and water management strategies to continue to handle drastic weather issues in the future. This is not the first or the last disruption that California farmers have faced. Whether it’s a drought or a flood, California growers will continue to bounce back and move forward.
Patrick Prior graduated with a BA from the University of Portland. After graduation, he commissioned as an active duty officer in the US Army. After serving as a Transportation Officer for 4 years, he joined the Allen Lund Company in the Fall of 2019 and currently works in the LA Sales office as a Transportation Broker.
Torrential rains and flooding in the Salinas Valley has continued and many growers are looking to other areas for spring plantings.
Church Bros. Farms of Salinas, CA expects shipping gaps this spring for vegetables.
Normally leafy greens harvest in Salinas starts about April 1. That harvest date requires a Jan. 1 planting. Salinas growers – with those in much of California’s Central Valley – received constant waves of torrential rainfall through the first two weeks of January. The Salinas River is overflowing.
Cole crops in the Salinas Valley are planted in November and December. Those plantings are lost. Church reports two of its growers have 2,000 acres underwater. In all, 20,000 acres are flooded in the valley. However, the company is unsure exactly how much of that total is cultivated. Some of that acreage will have to be disked if it was already planted with crops.
The grower/shipper reports loss of acres could create a gap in April and the following months as there are new food safety rules in place which did not exist in 1995. These rules restrict planting fields that were affected by the flood waters for 60 days and the soil must be sufficiently dried out. After 30 days, growers have to test the soil again before it can plant.
The company indicates that the Salinas River level in 1995 reached 30 feet and the flood level was 23 feet. Church notes that in a recent comparison photo, the river was measured at 24.6 feet and the damage was nowhere near what it was in 1995.
Some growers were already shifting to plant in Yuma. That inherent danger is the potential crop-killing heat in April. If those fields can withstand heat through April 10-20 they will still be better off than trying to plant using a pontoon boat in Salinas. Other growers are planting in Mexico to compensate for saturated Salinas fields.
While excessive rains and flooding has temporarily disrupted normal shipments of winter vegetables out of California, there could be longer term affects if current plantings for the spring crops keep being interrupted.
Boskovich Farms in Oxnard, CA, reports heavy rains and cooler weather has adversely affected celery loadings. Located in Ventura County, more rains are coming this week and will dampen volume on leafy greens, Romaine, parsley and some of the other vegetables.
Boskovich has ben sourcing leeks, green onions and radishes from Mexico, but supplies there are short as well.
Gold Coast Packing Inc. of Santa Maria, CA also has been dealing with heavy rains and notes their cauliflower shipments have been affected the most.
/The grower/shipper sources most of its value added vegetables from the desert this time of the year. The product is trucked to Santa Maria, and packed before nationwide distribution. However, desert supplies have been lighter than usual.
Gold Coast reports a bigger impact from January rains will probably result in supply gaps in supply in March, April and May when the transition from the desert production areas to coastal California growing districts take place.
Church Bros. Farms in Salinas, CA, agrees the biggest potential impact from California’s current unrelenting rains is lack of shipments in the spring. Rains will prevent most growers from planting for the next week or two. Those fields currently being planted won’t be ready for harvest for about three months, which gives growers a chance to “catch up” if the weather cooperates. The company is currently planting for the start of the Salinas vegetable season.