The California fruits and vegetables crop turned out to be a real lemon this year, as over $1 billion worth of produce has been lost in the unseasonably cold weather that began in early January.
In response to the widespread crop damage, Gov. Schwarzenegger declared an official state of emergency Jan. 12 for 10 counties across California, including Santa Barbara. According to state Assemblymember Pedro Nava, the recent cold bout will affect not only just groceries at the neighborhood market – the lost crops will also seriously impact consumers and workers alike.
“Anybody who has anything to do with agriculture will be affected,” Nava said. “Truck drivers who haul produce, packing houses that clean and pack produce, grocery stores … ultimately consumers will have to pay higher prices for fresh fruit and vegetables.”
Tim Buffalo, the ranch manager of Landmark Ranch Properties in Santa Barbara County, said he estimates approximately 65 to 75 percent of produce on his avocado farm will be lost this year. Because of the extensive losses, Buffalo said, the owners of the ranch may have to sell the entire property or divide it into smaller parcels to sell off.
“It’s a real tragic thing, but as growers we know this [kind of thing] happens,” he said.
Buffalo said the owners of the farm did not have insurance on their crops because they have not owned their property long enough to legally obtain a policy. In turn, farms in similar situations such as Landmark Ranch’s are now looking to the federal government for support during the crisis.
“We are asking for $100,000 for this ranch,” Buffalo said.
In addition, California officials are currently working together to push for immediate assistance from the federal government. Several politicians – including Gov. Schwarzenegger, Congresswoman Lois Capps and Nava – have personally visited farms to check out the damage first-hand.
Capps visited Landmark Ranch Properties on Saturday to personally see the damage that the recent weather had caused, in hopes of assessing the impact it would have during the current year and in the future, she said. Capps said it is the federal government’s responsibility to help the state’s farmers, and that she is working to lend them aid.
“The federal government must act quickly to bring them much-needed relief,” Capps said. “I’m pursuing every possible avenue to get federal help out to the growers, workers and businesses that have been harmed by this disaster.”
The California Congressional Delegation, of which Capps is a member, recently sent a letter to Mike Johanns California’s Secretary of Agriculture, calling for immediate assistance from the federal government and approval of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s recent requests for help.
In addition, Nava said that while Capps is working towards a solution on the federal level, he will focus on solving the problem from within California.
During his Saturday visit to Filmore, Oxnard and Carpinteria, Nava met with farm owners, farm worker advocates, farm supply business owners and nursery owners. Nava said he took the tour to meet the people directly affected and learn their thoughts for the best solution.
He said all three locations shared one immediate concern.
“The first issue is providing help to workers who temporarily lose their job,” Nava said.
But like the post office, Buffalo said farmers and workers must keep at their jobs, no matter the weather.
“Regardless whether or not we get money, we need to move ahead and do what we need to do,” Buffalo said. “We have to keep moving along.”