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California: hauling concerns but good yields

23/09/2020 - François-Xavier Branthôme - 2020 Season
Despite new hurdles to jump, most local sectors report good yields

Like most every other part of life, the agricultural industry has felt the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 
The impact … on California agricultural businesses was severe, unprecedented, and will continue to affect the industry for the coming months and years,” it was stated in the COVID-19 California Agricultural Economic Impact Analysis produced by the California Farm Bureau Federation. 

Still, it looks like most commodity markets in California are reporting successful harvests. “Yields this year are normal to above normal,” said Mitchell Yerxa, District One Board of Directors representative for the California Association of Tomato Growers (CTGA) and farm manager at River Vista Farms in Colusa.
It has been a good growing year for almost all crops, tomatoes, almonds, rice etc.  It was a little slow maturing at first when temperatures were cooler, but when the heat came and stayed, almost every crop came earlier than normal. Prunes and almonds especially were 7-10 days earlier than the year before.” 

Yerxa said although tomato yields are up this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it hard to have enough truck drivers to haul products, such as canning tomatoes, to places like the Morningstar tomato processing and packing company in Williams. “Because they are short of drivers this year, whether it be parents staying home with their kids due to school closures or otherwise, it has put a strain on the market of who can move that product on a timely basis,” said Yerxa. 

According to Yerxa, while many people continue working at their normal jobs, COVID has changed which part time or seasonal employees are choosing to not come back for this season.  “This area has made it out quite well comparatively to what the rest of the state has experienced, but even still you can see it mainly in labor shortages,” said Yerxa.

More than anything is the overall stress of what might be coming next down the pipeline. Now that farms are harvesting tomatoes, rice, almonds, and about to begin walnuts, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as money starts to come in to pay down farm credit loans for the year.


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