(June 30) Grower-shippers forecast tight supplies of iceberg lettuce from California this fall because of California’s ongoing water woes that have some grower-shippers scrambling to find enough irrigation water for the fall lettuce crop in the Huron, Calif., area.

“We’re hearing there will be product grown in the Huron area,” said Bruce Knobeloch, vice president of marketing for River Ranch Fresh Foods LLC, Salinas, Calif., which uses contract growers in Huron. “But we understand when they turn the water off the growers have to prioritize.”

If Huron-area growers put lettuce as a low priority, the focus may switch to the California desert.

“Some (desert) growers may try to start earlier or extend later,” Knobeloch said. “The one thing I’ve learned about this industry is that it can get pretty creative when facing a challenge.”

For others, however, no scrambling is necessary.

“We haven’t had any water issues at all to speak of at this point,” said Doug Classen, sales manager for The Nunes Co. Inc., Salinas. “We have not changed any of our plans whatsoever.”

Those plans include returning to Huron for spring lettuce, he said. The company’s traditional Huron lettuce crop is the iceberg variety, Classen said.

Mills Family Farms, Salinas, is negotiating with a Huron grower to produce 200 acres of fall iceberg lettuce, said Dave Mills, senior vice president.

“If we’re not able to put it together, we’d likely go straight to the desert as we do with our mixed line,” he said.

Huron area lettuce is traditionally an October crop with the harvest of desert lettuce usually beginning in mid-November.

Mills said if the company cannot reach agreement with the Huron grower, it will attempt to accelerate the desert planting.

“But we’re only talking about a week,” he said. “It’s just too hot down there.”

Retail and foodservice should expect summer supplies of most California vegetables and melons will meet demand.

Jeremy Lane, sales manager at Baloian Farms, Fresno, Calif., said he expects excellent quality from the company’s Kern County crop of red bell peppers. Baloian’s Kern County mixed melons, which he said should start the week of June 30, are very nice quality, he said. But there are concerns for the company’s westside summer bell peppers and melons.

“Water is a question mark toward the end of the summer,” Lane said.

Baloian Farms grows green and red bell peppers, mixed melons and honeydews on its Huron-area acreage.