Last year, it was drought that caused nearly three quarters of US farmers to report that a lack of rainfall was hurting their crops from Texas to North Dakota to California. This year, it’s heavy rains and flooding that are affecting agricultural land in the Golden State.
The latest storm to batter California has led to evacuations and flooded farmland. As the snowpack on the Sierra Nevada mountains melts, flooding in the Central Valley will remain a concern for weeks and months to come.
Recent floods have led to an evacuation order for parts of Tulare County, with the west side particularly hard-hit by floodwaters after breaches in waterways. In neighboring Kings County, the former Tulare Lakebed- once the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, before being drained more than 100 years ago for farming - has also been filling back up in recent weeks with flows from several rivers and creeks amid the onslaught of rain.
Abcnews.go.com reports that crops including tomatoes, onion, garlic and cotton are grown in the region, though planting in some parts will likely be delayed due to the floods. Standing water in lower-gradient sections of Tulare County could also damage the area's almond, pistachio and orange trees.
As for the ripple effect at retail, the delay in strawberry harvests are likely to drive up prices as gaps in production from California are passed along. Lettuce and celery may also see some hikes in the short term.
Michael Marks, an ag industry expert known as “The Produce Man” in his regular TV appearances, told CBS News that the crop situation is likely to impact an already-inflationary marketplace from now through the end of many traditional harvest seasons later in the year. “This is the salad bowl for the United States. Every bit that land is going to need to be tested,” he said, noting that the soil and crops in the region are regularly evaluated for runoff from nearby ranches and, hence, for pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella.