US: Yolo County organic growers of asparagus face Mexican competition

In California’s Yolo County, there has been abundant rainfall this winter. Reservoirs are full, streams and rivers are full, soil profile is full, and still more rain is coming. Having all the water storage filled provides an opportunity to relieve pressure on wells and recharge groundwater aquifers.

The organic vegetable growers there will want to begin incorporating cover crops in a few weeks, followed by transplanting. Saturated soils will present challenges of meeting planting schedules without damaging soils with compaction or wet tillage.

For the last two years, the asparagus harvest began in mid-February. This year, we are still looking at two more weeks of wet, cold soils.

The organic vegetable business has always been competitive with domestic growers, but supply is catching up with demand and prices continue to slide on organic crops. New pressure is also coming from an influx of product coming from Mexican producers. US organic growers can compete in the marketplace when parity is present, but when wages in Mexico are too low, it becomes more difficult.

This problem already existed in many conventional veg crop cultivation throughout the years and now organic produce is following similar patterns. With minimum wage hikes in California on the rise over the next few years, US growers’ ability to compete in the organic vegetable business will become increasingly more difficult.

Many large California growers have already moved some of their operations to Mexico to take advantage of cheaper labor costs, or contracted with Mexican growers to produce for them.

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