Mother Nature gave California growers a break for the most part this season with relatively light pest and disease pressure and moderate temperatures. Not too many growers are overly optimistic they’ll get the same break in ’08.

“We are still harvesting wine grapes, finishing up the French Colombard and some late Thompsons that were slow to develop sugar,” says Don Cameron, Manager of Terranova Ranch in Helm. “We’re also picking Barbera and Cabernet. Yields have been good for us this year in most varieties.”

Price is still an issue, however.

“Prices (in the San Joaquin Valley) are nothing to get excited about with excess tonnage going for $120 per ton at this time,” Cameron says. “I guess it’s good, they are taking it.”

With harvest still underway in most areas, growers are already trying to figure out a strategy for a “worst case” scenario next season. Water will be the key factor in many areas, particularly the West Side.

“The permanent crops will definitely get first priority for water,” says Nick Groenenberg, PCA in Hanford. “Then the priority will shift to the higher value vegetable crops. Cotton will take a hit. I know at least two growers who will have zero water next year for cotton. At this point, it’s a matter of trying to hang on to the permanent crops and hoping the water situation will get better next year.”

Other sources close to California’s water situation confirm that growers have paid as much as $700 an acre foot for water on the West Side to finish this season. The picture looks even bleaker going forward with opening ’08 allocation predicted at 20 percent of normal if it’s a wet winter and only 10 percent of normal if it doesn’t snow in the Sierra Nevada or rain in the appropriate basins.