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» October 19, 2005 «
Farmers across much of Southern California will spend the next few days assessing the impact of rain and hail that hit the region this week. The storms led to scattered damage to strawberries being grown in coastal counties. Rain can cause scarring and mold to pumpkins. In the desert, farmers say newly planted lettuce and sugar beets may have been hurt. And Southern California grape growers say the rains could cause mildew on chardonnay and other wine varieties.
Sugar, rice and cotton suffered the brunt of the crop damage from Hurricane Rita, according to preliminary estimates released yesterday (Tuesday) by the federal government. The report shows crop losses of $195 million in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas. Crop losses from Hurricane Katrina had earlier been estimated at $882 million. Neither estimate includes damage to timber, which also suffered significant hurricane losses.
Cool autumn weather has helped boost the size of winegrapes hanging in California vineyards ... and that has led to a larger estimate of the state's total crop. A government forecast issued yesterday revised the winegrape crop upward by 7 percent from the previous estimate. The report says winegrape quality is "very high." Winegrapes represent half of California's total grape crop, with the rest devoted to raisins and table grapes.
Congressional opposition has ended plans to close some local offices of the federal Farm Service Agency. The local offices, including 32 in California, allow farmers to apply for federal farm programs. The U.S. Agriculture Department had originally planned to close and consolidate hundreds of the local offices across the country. Now, it says it will withdraw the plan and work on a longer-term modernization program for the agency.Top