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» January 18, 2006 «
A second straight year of crop failures in Florida has reduced the wintertime supply of fresh tomatoes. Hurricanes ruined many fields, but the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association says it expects tomato supplies to improve in a couple of weeks. California farmers likely won't plant more tomatoes in response to the current high prices. The California Tomato Commission says the seasons don't match, making it risky for farmers here to plant more.
California farmers continue to assess the impacts of the heavy rains and floods that struck over New Year's weekend. A crop report says farmers have been removing almond trees that blew down during the storm. Floods ruined mandarin citrus crops in Yuba County and damaged oats in Northern California. But the rain stimulated growth of vegetables planted for spring harvest, and boosted grass growth in foothill pastures.
Although Central Valley temperatures have turned chilly, earlier mild winter weather has enticed some California apricot trees to bud early. Farmers worry that trees that bloom early will be more vulnerable to frost, which can be expected anytime for the next several months. They say their orchards need more "chilling" weather now. Apricots and other deciduous fruit trees require chilling during the winter to produce a strong bloom in the spring.
To prepare to keep the food supply safe, federal, state and private agencies plan a "food defense" exercise in California this week. The U.S. Agriculture Department says the test will be conducted in Alameda. It's designed to make certain that officials at all levels of government can collaborate with each other, and with private agencies, in response to food-safety threats. This week's test is the first of five scheduled in the nation this year.Top