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Rain making harvest in Imperial Valley next to impossible

February 27, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Two days of a mostly gentle rain might not seem like it could do much damage, but to the farming community such rain can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

As of this morning .65 inches of rain had fallen in the El Centro area since Sunday, and county meteorologist Jim Christopherson said at least an inch of rain could fall before the storm breaks.

The Valley averages about 3 inches of rain annually, he said.

Christopherson said while there could be some moments of sunshine today, rain is expected to continue through Wednesday.

For the farming community, the conditions brought by the rain could make it difficult and in many cases impossible to continue with the harvest for a number of days even after the storm ends.

"You start getting behind now on the harvest," said farmer John Pierre Menvielle, secretary of the Imperial County Farm Bureau. "It is getting to the worrisome stage."


Menvielle added, "You get a little behind in your harvest, you start losing time. That is when you lose money."

Major crops being harvested include lettuce, leaf lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower. In addition, tons of hay has been cut.

Menvielle said farmers stand to lose $25 a ton from rain damage to the hay.

He said farmers for the most part can deal with the loss caused by one day of rain but when a storm continues for two days or more there is potential for great loss.

Miguel Monroy, county assistant agricultural commissioner, said "This is a substantial amount of rain. It is going to slow things down."

He said beyond the rain, muddy conditions make it difficult to work in fields or operate machinery.

Charlotte Murray, county deputy agricultural commissioner, said the problem caused by the rain becomes even more an issue when considering that this winter has been the first in nearly four years that local farmers have had good prices for their crops. She said farmers were looking at this season as being their first break from a market that has made it difficult to continue in the industry.

Damage could come from the spread of disease over crops, something that could be fostered after the rain as temperatures warm.

Menvielle said there is little farmers can do but wait for the rain to stop and for conditions to dry so they can continue harvesting and determine the loss.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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