California strawberry losses from flooding in the hundreds of millions

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California strawberry losses from flooding in the hundreds of millions

Rick Tomlinson, President of the California Strawberry Commission has released a statement regarding the flooding occurring in the Pajaro community, and along the Salinas River. 

Floods were caused by the atmospheric river storm which resulted in major flooding last week.

Experts have already announced that delayed plantings and lost crops due to the floodings lead to product shortages and higher market values throughout the season. 

“This week’s flooding events along the Pajaro and Salinas Rivers have been devastating for those communities,” said Tomlinson. 

“Preliminary assessments estimate hundreds of millions in losses and thousands of people displaced in the town of Pajaro. The entire California strawberry industry would like to thank the first responders, aid organizations, and volunteers who have helped begin the long recovery process.

“We are thankful that the Pajaro River levee breach is being repaired. Stopping the river from flowing into the community is the first priority. This is a good start toward a safer place to live, raise a family, and work,” added Tomlinson.

Strawberry crops were some of the most affected by the levee failure in the Salinas river on March 11, which flooded a big part of the Southern side of the valley.

“The foreseeable future will be challenging. Families will work to restore their homes, their jobs, and many other aspects of their lives,” said Tomlinson.“Farms face a massive cleanup. As soon as the cleanup is complete, farmers will begin the process of preparing the fields and starting over.”

The California Data Exchange Center reported that between Oct.1, 2022, and March 15, 2023, cumulative precipitation reached 56 inches, which is 16 more than the yearly average of 40 inches between 1991 and 2020. 

Tomlinson continued, “For the farms that were flooded, this catastrophe hit at the worst possible time. Farmers had borrowed money to prepare the fields and were weeks away from beginning to harvest. Disaster relief and emergency financial assistance will be critical for both the residential community and the farming operations.

“California strawberry operations, most of which are multi-generational and family-owned, will remain vital to the damaged areas during the recovery and well beyond.

“California’s 400 family strawberry operations create 70,000 jobs in the state and invest 97 cents of every dollar back into the community. That commitment will only grow as the damaged area recovers. Despite the challenges, there will be increased shipments of California strawberries from Oxnard and Santa Maria to stores across the country to keep up with high demand.

“Times are tough, but the town of Pajaro, the surrounding communities, and the strawberry farming families are more resilient than ever, and we will work together to recover,” concluded Rick Tomlinson.

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