CALIFORNIA FLOODS DAMAGE CROPS

SALINAS, Calif. -- Growers and shippers throughout California are tallying the damage caused by the second major rainstorm to hit the state this year.The rains and flooding that killed a dozen people over the last two weeks also caused $300 million in damages to crops, according to the California Farm Bureau, based in Sacramento.Spokesman Dave Kranz said most of the damage occurred in Monterey County,

SALINAS, Calif. -- Growers and shippers throughout California are tallying the damage caused by the second major rainstorm to hit the state this year.

The rains and flooding that killed a dozen people over the last two weeks also caused $300 million in damages to crops, according to the California Farm Bureau, based in Sacramento.

Spokesman Dave Kranz said most of the damage occurred in Monterey County, in the central part of the state. The county, which includes Salinas, sustained about $200 million in damage, he said. Throughout the state, head lettuce sustained $67 million in damage, broccoli $65 million, cauliflower $65 million, almonds $33 million and strawberries $29 million. Last week, growers were still assessing long-term damage and bracing for the possibility of more rain over the weekend, he said. "It's a big mess, and it will be awhile yet before we know how bad it is," he said.

As of last week, wholesale prices were still relatively stable, Kranz said. He said higher prices could hit next month and continue until summer. While leaf lettuce was not seriously affected, the major growing areas of head lettuce were hit hard, Kranz said. "Head lettuce could be at two dollars a head this spring," he said.

The heavy rainfalls and flooding California received in January has compounded the problem, he said. "The ground was already saturated, and water was not absorbed nearly as much as it normally would have been," he said.

Mann Packing Co. here, a major shipper of fresh broccoli, lost two days of production and some acreage, according to Lorri Nucci, director of trade and media relations.

Nucci said Mann has growers throughout the state, and some were not affected at all by the rains.

"Supplies will be somewhat slight, and there will be a short-term crunch," she said. As of last week, Mann was back in production, but Nucci said production could be limited.

Nucci said the picture looks bleak for some smaller growers, some of whom were completely wiped out. "We're going to have to hang together," she said.

Despite the estimated loss to strawberries, the fruit should be in good supply in April, according to Teresa Thorne, communications director for the California Strawberry Commission based in Watsonville. Thorne said much of the loss occurred when a levy broke and flooded 600 acres in the Salinas and Watsonville areas, which is only a fraction of the total strawberry acreage under production, she said.

"We're still expecting to produce lots of good quality fruit," she said.