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Storms to disrupt Thanksgiving vegetable markets

EDINBURG, TX — National Thanksgiving vegetable supplies will be disrupted. “You can bank on it,” said Jimmy Bassetti, the president of J&D Produce Inc.

Bassetti's Sept. 12 forecast was based on more than the imminent damage looming for Southeastern growers from Hurricane Florence. In Bassetti’s home state of New Jersey, and in other Northeastern states, late-season fields were going to be hit by Florence’s inevitable northward swing. And going into mid-September, Texas growers’ plans to supply Thanksgiving vegetables were also being drenched.JD-flood

Bassetti operates farms in four distant parts of the sprawling Rio Grande Valley to spread his risk regarding such weather. On Sept. 12 he indicated his fields had received between four and 10 inches of rain in the last three days.

Spotty but often heavy thunderstorms drenched south Texas fields in the week that growers planned to start planting for Thanksgiving demand.

Muddy soaked fields sat idle throughout the Rio Grande Valley as The Produce News visited the valley’s growers and importers that week.

Making matters worse, growers on this saturated ground faced a tropical disturbance that moved toward the Texas coastline. It is expected to arrive about Sept. 14. Forecasting the future of that storm, The Weather Channel indicated early Sept. 13 that “regardless of development, the main threat from this tropical system is additional heavy rain in parts of Texas, particularly near the coast and in south Texas.”

As of Sept. 12, Bassetti’s early plantings of celery and pickles had survived the rain. Fast-growing pickle plants were blooming that day, and Farm Manager Tony Brunnemann said the pickles would form and be harvested within a week. Brunnemann expected the celery, which grew from greenhouse transplants, would be available for American consumers’ Thanksgiving stuffing.

But, the vast majority of Bassetti's vegetables — and other growers' — awaited drier land.

Brunnemann took The Produce News to J&D fields in Edinberg and Donna, TX. On “Little Bear Farms” an estimated 65 acres of fields were underwater. These had already been fertilized, irrigation pipe was planted and were ready for planting. Brunnemann said this is only the third time for such flooding in the last 16 years.

“In September we usually get rains, but these amounts and the frequency are unusual,” Bassetti said. “This is unusual. It will be a challenge to get out in the fields.”

Bassetti said Hurricane Florence, which approached the East Coast “will create problems in the Northeast (farms) with rain and heat.” Growing operations in the Southeast were obviously going to be impacted.

“You will see stronger markets for everything,” and this will extend to Thanksgiving, Bassetti said.