Storms causing delays for farmers

EXETER, Calif.

Orange groves across the Central Valley's citrus belt are at a virtual standstill right now after between one and three inches of rain soaked crops. After a dry and cold winter -- growers are ecstatic about the rain but it is preventing them from picking their citrus in the middle of harvest season.

Robert Lobue said, "They're holding off on harvesting because the ground conditions are very wet and the fruit conditions are going to be kind of on the softer side the rind is going to be more tender."

Lobue says after the recent storms, the citrus still left on the trees must be picked dry to prevent bruising and tearing of the rind. Growers are hoping dry, sunny weather over the next few days will get them back in the fields. "Probably by Wednesday we'll be able to get into some of the fields, some of the muddier ones we'll wait a little bit longer."

Tricia Stever-Blattler with the Tulare County Farm Bureau said, "Citrus is grown and harvested here almost year round and even though it's good to get some water on the ground it does make it more challenging if we have orchard picking going on or other cultivation activities."

Tulare County Farm Bureau Executive Director Tricia Stever-Blattler says getting snow in the mountains right now is almost more important than getting rain down on the Valley floor. "The snow we can anticipate being there and melting off in the summer months of course if we have a really early warm spring that will make the snow melt off quicker and again it's all about timing."

The recent storms have also knocked off the blossoms on some fruit and nut trees which can ultimately decrease the amount of product a grower can get from their trees.

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