Latest crop problem: A late spring in the West

Mitchell Hartman Jun 2, 2011

Latest crop problem: A late spring in the West

Mitchell Hartman Jun 2, 2011

Tess Vigeland: Tornadoes in Massachusetts yesterday just add to the chronicle of extreme weather we’ve been having around the country, not just the devastating twisters across the lower Midwest. Drought is parching the earth from Arizona right across Texas to Florida.

Meanwhile, spring has yet to spring with wet and cold from the Dakotas and Montana, all the way to the Pacific. And it’s all wreaking havoc on spring crops.

Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman reports from Portland, Ore.

Mitchell Hartman: Brad Rippey’s bird’s eye view of America doesn’t look too good. He’s the U.S Department of Agriculture’s top meteorologist.

Brad Rippey: Just about anywhere you go in the United States, you can say that weather patterns have been extreme.

All the proof I need is to look out the window every day through pelting rain to the overflowing banks of the Willamette River. Rippey says cold, wet conditions extend across the rich farming region of the Pacific Northwest into Northern California, from wheat fields to cherry orchards.

Rippey: You don’t like to see the fruits ripening on the tree under such a cool, wet regime because you can get droppage or disease problems.

Or worse.

Alan Schreiber: We lost our cherry crop to a frost.

Alan Schreiber farms in Eastern Washington. He says pretty much all his crops are behind by several weeks. He’s been surveying fields for the state Blueberry Commission.

Schreiber: I have a picture of a blueberry field that’s got ducks swimming on it. Every week I’m losing sales — like at farmers’ markets — because I should have turnips now and I don’t. And I should have had strawberries before now, but I don’t.

Instead of cherries for the Fourth of July, chances are markets will still be full of ripe strawberries, says Bernadine Strik of the Oregon State University Extension Service. But:

Bernadine Strik: I think we have to wait and see what happens with price.

Economists say it’s too early to tell whether small, late crops will translate to higher bills at the grocery store.

I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

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