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In California, When it Rains, it Pours

Most years, when we talk about California in The Food Institute Blog, it’s about a drought. This year, it’s the complete opposite.

A wet winter is replenishing groundwater aquifers in California, according to the California Department of Water Resources. Previous droughts spurred the creation of places for pond water to filter down to underground aquifers in a process known as active recharge, reported AgAlert (March 6).

Additionally, snow totals in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains will be favorable for farmers in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, according to Weathermelon. Mountain ranges in Colorado and Utah, which supply farmers in southern California and Arizona, are posting above-average totals, as well, reported The Produce News (Feb. 26).

However, although rain is a good thing, in California, it’s turning out to be too much of a good thing. Take a look at these recent stories regarding harvest delays caused by the rain:

  • California’s citrus and berry harvest could be heavily impacted by a three-day storm that began March 5, according to Weathermelon. Farmers in the San Joaquin Valley expect between two and 2.5 inches of rain through March 7, while the Oxnard and Santa Maria regions expect between 1.5 and 3 inches, reported The Produce News (March 5).
  • Floods are expected to disrupt the North Coast dairy industry in California, according to regional farmers. The farmers expect feed will be tough to source in the spring as sediment from flooding rivers will need to be cleaned from ranges, reported AgAlert (March 6).
  • California’s Salinas growing region is bogged down by rainy weather, according to regional growers. Pacific International Marketing noted plantings had begun, but January and February rains will delay the beginning of some spring vegetable harvests. Ocean Mist Farms reported rainfall was about 130% higher than normal, reported The Packer (March 11).
  • Aerial spraying companies in California are reporting increased demand for their services following the wet winter, with Thiel Air Care saying demand has surged 50% for aerial fungicide applications. As farmers can’t reach almond and stone fruit trees which are entering bloom due to flooding, the operators are seeking help from companies that supply airplanes and helicopters for herbicide and fungicide applications, reported AgAlert (March 13).

Luckily, it appears these conditions are abating and that normal harvests will begin. Although it varies by region and commodity, it would appear late-March to mid-April will be the sweet spot for production to level off near historical norms. For a region that had to contend with wildfires the past two years, I’m sure many were ready for the rains.

I just don’t think they believed they would get this much.