Storms in California raising produce prices in Wisconsin

Updated: Jan. 23, 2023 at 10:30 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The rain and flooding in California are causing price hikes in Wisconsin grocery stores; something experts say will last anywhere from a matter of weeks to the spring.

“If Wisconsin is in the Bread Basket of the U.S., than California is the salad bowl,” said Andrew Stevens, an assistant professor of agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Stevens says the rain does not just delay planting crops or damage fields with washout; it also impacts how the plants grow.

“Now in California, about 9 million acres or 40% of all its farmland is irrigated,” said Stevens. “The plants themselves are getting more water than they need and are going to be less productive.”

Stevens says much of the leafy greens and fruits hitting shelves in grocery stores across the U.S. come from California, so the ripple effect is increased prices in the produce aisles everywhere. Exactly how much and when is a bit harder to nail down.

“So if you look at something like lettuce where the entire plant is harvested currently, we see lettuce prices up about 50 to 100% higher than they were at this time last year,” said Stevens.

Because of the many variances like who the supplier is and what the product is, the cost can range, as will the timeframe the prices rise. Stevens says costs will likely rise for the next several weeks depending on the crop and its growth is impacted, but other plants could see rising prices as late as the spring.

He believes these will be short-term changes, with prices dipping after a matter of weeks. A way around the rise in cost is purchasing frozen vegetables instead of fresh produce.

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