It's a relief to be watching the rain clouds pass over Northern California, where I live, for the next few days. Unfortunately, say weather experts, we may not get enough rain this winter to fend off the worst drought in 20 years. That's bad news for the rest of you, too. California farmers, who grow the majority of America's fruits and vegetables, are leaving thousands of acres bare, for fear they won't be able to water their crops later. That means you'll probably be paying more for your produce
this year, starting this spring.
Some hard-hit crops include lettuce (California acres devoted to those greens dropped by 50 percent) and melons (the state supplies all of the nation's canteloupes during the summer). Farmers are switching from water-intensive crops, like rice, to ones that can rely on drip irrigation, like almonds. Feel like a nut?
And if the Asian citrus psyllid
comes to town, expect to pay more for your oranges and lemons this winter, too. The bug, which carries
and spreads a pathogen that causes "citrus greening disease" among orange and lemon trees, has wreaked havoc on citrus farms in Florida and Brazil, and it crossed the Mexican border at Tijuana last summer. The state's agricultural officials have ordered quarantines on citrus farms in parts of San Diego and the Imperial Valley -- fruit can still be shipped, but it must be cleaned first. If the psyllid escapes north, it could cause massive damage to California's citrus industry, which supplies 85% of the U.S. orange crop and nearly all of our nation's lemons. That's some sour grapes for fruit and veggie eaters to swallow.