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Michigan Asparagus Crop Taking Severe Hit Due To Weather

Asparagus

(credit: Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images)

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DEWITT, Mich. (CBS) — Michigan asparagus farmers stand to lose between 20 and 25 percent of their crop because an overnight frost followed warm weather which caused the spears to sprout a month early.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory board, says the 80-degree weather last week encouraged the asparagus to sprout early, and the subsequent frost went on to kill man of the plants.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

But Bakker says a second problem is that even if there is only warm weather from now on, there is no one around to pick the crop. Migrant harvest teams are a month away from arriving.

Bakker says local unemployed are not interested in picking asparagus, which cannot be harvested with machinery. And he says the migrant harvest teams operate on a schedule involving their whole family and their children’s schools, and thus, they won’t be ready for travel up to Michigan until the end of next month.

“Not only is asparagus in jeopardy, but the fruit crops in the state are also in major jeopardy,” Bakker said.

Bakker says asparagus farmers usually produce about 20 million pounds a year and stand to lose between 3 and 5 million pounds this year.

He estimates 20 percent of the Michigan asparagus crop will be lost. He says there will also be some serious impact on fruit crops – apples and peaches – but how much, he does not yet know.

Bakker says it is hard to say what effect the Michigan asparagus crisis will have on Chicago asparagus prices, which will be set by markets partially dependent on supplies from other countries.