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» August 9, 2006 «
There's no good time for a spike in oil prices, but for California farmers the increased costs associated with reduced Alaskan supplies come right before peak harvests for many crops. Fuel use will increase on farms and ranches for the equipment used to harvest crops and the trucks needed to carry them to market. Farmers generally must absorb higher costs, which they have no way to pass along.
Along the Central Coast, farmers are working to find alternatives to a material they've used to protect their crops from pests. The federal government proposes to stop sales of the material, carbofuran. Monterey County grape growers have used it to shield grapevines from root pests. Vineyards have been replanted with rootstock that resists the pests controlled by the material. Artichoke growers have used carbofuran to fight weevils, and are researching effective substitutes.
The combination of smaller crops and strong demand has raised the prices that farmers earn for their peaches, nectarines and plums this summer. The cool, rainy spring contributed to reduced yields of each fruit, but the California Tree Fruit Agreement assures consumers that ample supplies remain available. The July heat wave caused some fruit to ripen too fast, but overall crop quality remains high. California farms lead the nation in production of all three tree-fruit varieties.
Sharp-eyed shoppers can still find a few California-grown navel oranges at farmers' markets, though the annual harvest has pretty much ended. Typically, the San Joaquin Valley navel orange harvest ends in June, but farm advisors say that late maturing varieties in cooler sub-climates can produce navels later in the summer. Many farmers have removed the valencia oranges they once grew and replaced them with later-maturing navels, but supplies of valencias are now on the market as well.Top