Rainy forecast worries Valley raisin farmers

FRESNO, Calif.

Raisin farmers have been busy working the fields to make sure their crop does not get wet in the coming storm. "Normally we're picked and rolled by end of August, first part of September. This year, we're 10 days, 2 weeks behind," said grape farmer Charles McClurg. Monday he was having workers pick up the dry grapes already rolled.

"I consider myself lucky I picked early on, because it saves me as far as picking costs," said McClurg. But many growers are in a more difficult situation.

"These are still grapes, they're not raisins. But they're close enough that at this point, we don't want a rain to come in and splash dirt on the tray and cause an issue with sand," said raisin farmer Steven Spate.

Spate's grapes have been drying in the heat but the pending rain will cut short their time in the sun.

"You want to do everything you can to protect the crop. If it's ready to be rolled, you want to roll if. If it's ready to pick up out of the field, you want to get it out of the field," said Spate.

Spate's workers will roll up the raisin trays to protect them from the moisture. Even a small amount of water can cause mold to develop. And if the crop is damaged, it could hurt growers' bottom lines. "If he fails inspection at USDA when he delivers, he'll have to have them reconditioned, so ultimately it's just a higher cost to the grower," said Spate. And that's money many farmers can't afford to lose.

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