Food & Farm News
Audio ActualityIncreased shipping costs for California fruit
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» May 29, 2008 «
The challenge of moving California fruit to East Coast consumers has intensified. Truckers and retailers have increased the costs they charge farmers to carry peaches, nectarines and plums to market. Farmers say a shipment that cost $6,000 dollars last year costs $9,000 now, because of sharply higher fuel prices. Retailers want farmers to pay the bulk of the increase. Farmers say they hope demand stays strong enough to offset the rising costs.
Small has become big in the watermelon business. California-grown watermelons are now available in retail stores, and marketers say the biggest change has been the increased production of mini-melons. Production of the smaller watermelons increased 35 percent last year as new varieties were introduced. Consumers can now find orange- and yellow-fleshed mini-melons alongside red-fleshed varieties. Shippers report high quality among California watermelons this year.
Grapes will be required to "hang in there" a little longer during an experiment this summer. A researcher at Fresno State University hopes to learn how extended "hang time" affects grape quality and vine health in Central Valley vineyards. Farmers sometimes allow grapes to hang on the vines past their typical harvest time, to allow sugar, acids and color to increase. The experiment will also test irrigation techniques that could reduce vineyard water use by 30 percent or more.
Organic farmers say they're pleased by a sharp increase in federal funding included in the new farm bill. The Organic Farming Research Foundation says the bill provides $78 million dollars for organic agriculture research and education. That's a fivefold increase from the current farm law. The new bill also sets aside money to gather economic data about organic production, and aids farmers in obtaining organic certification.Top