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Heat and fires disrupt Salinas crops

Growers in the Salinas Valley, CA, were preparing for record-breaking heat this week, but then storms cased wildfires that has limited some harvesting and shipping delays.

The area is experiencing poor air quality with falling ash, which is causing bad conditions for both workers and the product being grown.

Ash is falling on crops and can be difficult to remove.

John Galvez, Quality Assurance for Markon Cooperative BB #:123315 sent this update August 20,2020:

The River Fire near Salinas, CA, has now burned over 33,000 acres (only 7 percent contained) and continues to threaten residential homes and out structures.

It is having an immediate impact throughout the Salinas Valley in the form of poor air quality and ash falling onto row crop vegetables.

• Growers are monitoring air quality, and may curtail production hours to ensure farmworker safety
• Harvesting and processing crews are working to remove as much ash as possible, but will not be able to eliminate it completely
• The simple act of handling product is spreading ash to gloves and packing surfaces
• Field-packed items are the most impacted, but RSS lightly-processed items (whole fillets, washed and trimmed, and Deli Leaf products) may contain a small amount of ash even after the processor’s wash
• To ensure our RSS highly-processed items (shreds, salad, blends, chopped romaine) are virtually free of ash residue, we are implementing the following measures at the processing level: Increased frequency of wash-water turbidity checks; Draining water from wash-lines more frequently during production shifts; Additional visual finished product inspection with particular focus on ash residue

Markon inspectors will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Pro-Act LLC, BB #:141746 Monterey, CA, also posted an alert to customers on August 20, that said:

The severe heat will impact the overall quality for the next couple of weeks at a minimum. Overall size and weight will be on the lighter side as crews trim out defects in the box. These issues are industry-wide in the Salinas Valley, with all growers affected by the heat and ash.

A brief cool down is forecast for this weekend, followed by another round of warm temperatures and high humidity next week. Authorities project the fires burning through the end of this month.

The Salinas area fires are creating poor air quality conditions, as seen by the haze.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services