California growers whose fields flooded when heavy March rains took their toll along the Salinas River will have to wait up to 60 days before replanting.
Thatâs one of the consequences of taking food safety seriously and joining the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.
Floodwaters carry a risk of soil and crop contamination, according to the LGMA and the Food and Drug Administration. How big or small a that risk is â and what to do about it â is prompting discussion and action among Salinas Valley growers.
âThe standard in our metrics is 60 days, but you can replant after 30 provided youâve done some testing to be sure the soil is free of pathogens,â said Scott Horsfall, LGMA chief executive officer.
âSome growers say theyâll wait out the 60 days, and some are weighing the costs against the benefits of soil testing and may get into the fields sooner.â
The flooding was prompted by more than 3 inches of rain in one week in late March.
That number was fairly tame compared to amounts received elsewhere in the state. But a levee breach left several produce growers and vineyards in the Gonzales area under water. Well north of the breach, closer to Salinas, the river simply rose too high in some places.
DâArrigo Bros. Co. lost about 300 acres, but they werenât alone. The Monterey County Farm Bureau put the damage at up to 1,500 acres.
Still to weigh in on the matter â if they choose to â are buyers.
âItâs the first significant flood weâve had since 2007 and the implementation of the LGMA,â said Bob Roach, assistant agricultural commissioner for Monterey County.
âSo how soon will that land be back in production, and will buyers impose requirements above and beyond that of the LGMA metrics?â
LGMA starts 5th year
April 1 marked the start of the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreementâs fifth year in operation.
Industry support remains solid â zero withdrawals in the last year.
One new offering is a blog, launched April 14. There LGMA staff, industry representatives and outsiders will comment on food safety issues.
âWe wonât be blogging every day, but weâll try to keep it updated,â Horsfall said. âWe see that as a way of being more active about communicating what weâre doing.â
The LGMA also anticipates hearing soon from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on possible formation of a national agreement.
âThe first thing theyâll do is publish a preliminary decision, and we do expect that relatively soon,â Horsfall said.
âBased on hearing testimony theyâll either move forward or not with creation of a national marketing agreement. Then thereâll be a comment period before further action.â
Horsfall likes his chances.
âWe know the FDA is probably not going to get the resources to do inspections on every farm in the U.S.,â he said.
âThat doesnât mean every product would need a marketing agreement. But we know theyâre going to look at certain products first, like leafy greens, and we want to be sure theyâre aware of what weâve done at LGMA.â
Are you dealing with the aftermath of heavy rainfall or flooding? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.