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CSU Monterey Bay experts say winter rains could have lasting impacts on agricultural fields

SEASIDE, Calif. (KION-TV) - The winter storms devastated the Central Coast after three months of unprecedented weather barraged agriculture fields, homes and businesses alike. CSU Monterey Bay experts, the impacts could extend into the future.

The recent storms caused flooding to agricultural fields and may have resulted in the loss of one, possibly more, growing cycles. Experts say prices could spike soon, with Monterey County producing more than half of the nation’s lettuce and celery and 28% of its strawberries.

“If there are fewer crops to be harvested and less supply, there will probably be a significant impact on the consumer,” said lecturer Meagan Hynes, a soil scientist, and adjunct researcher. 

Due to conditions, tractor and heavy machinery use will be hindered on the land and will delay the planting cycle.

There are also concerns that flood waters may deposit sewage or harmful chemicals into growing areas. The testing for these pollutants could cause more delays, said CSUMB experts.

Sumadhur Shakya, a professor of operations management at CSUMB, said local workers would be impacted. 

“Laborers are not living in Monterey and Carmel,” Shakya said. “They are staying in areas that are prone to flooding, as we saw when the levee broke at Pajaro. They may have a tough time finding a place to live and not having a sufficient amount of work.”

Scott Fausti, a professor of agribusiness, sess a price increase, especially in strawberries, which he said was the hardest-hit crop.

“I would venture that consumers may not see berry prices decline as much as they usually do as we get toward summer,” Fausti said.

Hynes said that if the delay is long enough, this year, vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts would likely see planting delays or no planting.

She said the long-term effects of the flooding are a mixed bag with relieving California’s drought and causing planting delays. The full impact will not be known for some time.

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