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The Road to Recovery : Survey Finds Some Industries Rolling Along but Others Are Stalled : AGRICULTURE

June 23, 1991|MARTHA GROVES | This story was compiled by Jonathan Peterson from reports by Times staff writers in Southern California and around the nation

Farmers may be habitually pessimistic, but the city slickers who analyze their industry say agriculture has a sunny, post-recession season coming up. The Corn Belt is continuing a recovery from the mid-1980s when hard times drove many a debt-laden farmer to the brink of ruin.

And while farmers would scarcely call the recession a non-event, many maneuvered quite well through challenges of weather and the economy.

"Agriculture is in so much better shape than in the middle 1980s that it feels great," said Dave Armstrong, a commodities analyst with the Illinois Farm Bureau in Bloomington. "People learned some hard lessons then. They're being very careful with debt."

Farm income for 1991 will be down somewhat from last year's record-tying results, but, thanks to strong livestock prices, income prospects remain "solid," according to a report by the American Farm Bureau Federation in Chicago.

In California, lingering effects of the December freeze and the five-year drought have raised concerns about availability of water and future crop supplies.

But Nunes Co., a big vegetable grower in Salinas, has benefited from the tight supplies of lettuce resulting from the cold snap. Where a box of iceberg lettuce in May, 1990, was $3, this year's price was $17, said Matt Seeley, director of marketing. Prices for cauliflower, asparagus and celery also went up after the freeze. "We've enjoyed a good run," Seeley said.

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