Food and Farm News - fEBRUARY 5, 2020

Desert vegetable harvest picks up momentum


Winter vegetable harvest in the California desert has picked up the pace after something of a slow start. Farmers say rains in late December and early January delayed planting and harvest in the Imperial Valley. Occasional cold weather has meant farmers had to wait until midmorning to begin their daily harvests. The desert valleys of California and Arizona produce most of the nation's lettuce, spinach and other vegetables during the winter.  


Ranchers hope for rains to sustain pastures


Rainfall the next few weeks will make a big difference in how California cattle ranchers manage their herds through the spring. Ranchers say rainfall so far this winter has been adequate to keep pastures green, meaning enough grass for their cattle. But cool weather has meant the grass hasn't grown as fast as ranchers would prefer. In some cases, ranchers say they're buying hay just in case they need to provide supplemental feed for their herds.


Lack of employees slows orchard, vineyard work


In the orchards and vineyards of California, winter means it's time to prune fruit trees and grapevines. Farmers in many parts of the state say they're having trouble hiring enough people to do the work. One Central Valley peach farmer who used to hire 40 people to prune his trees says he could only hire eight this year. Mechanical pruners have become available for vineyards. Peach farmers say their crops generally need to be pruned and harvested by hand.


USDA predicts worldwide citrus production


Worldwide production of most citrus crops will likely decline in the current harvest year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A USDA report projected reduced global crops of oranges, tangerines and mandarins, and lemons and limes. But the report said worldwide grapefruit production could set a record high. USDA said orange harvests in the U.S. and China should increase, but a smaller crop in Brazil will bring global supplies down.