Here in Salinas we don’t move cargo — or clients — by sea, though the beach is just a few miles away.
The cargo comes and goes by land, and some of the clients by air.
But come June 15, those buyers might have to settle for rental cars, or thumb rides on the backs of lettuce trucks.
That’s because Salinas Municipal Airport is on a list of 149 contract towers nationwide scheduled for closure by the Federal Aviation Administration, part of the sequestration budget cuts.
Those closures were to start April 7 but got put off a couple of months when the predictable hue and cry arose.
One such cry came from our own U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, who pointed out the airport supports a $4 billion fresh produce industry in the Salinas Valley.
“The FAA’s … failure to take into account the full economic consequences of closing the tower will affect the growing capability of the 210,000 acres of farmland in the valley that is responsible for over 60% of the nation’s fresh lettuce and spinach, and over 70% of the nation’s strawberries,” Farr said in a March 22 statement.
Capacity looked pretty good, though, at least as the deal was starting. There was a bit of action in the broccoli market, but plenty of lettuce during the Yuma to Salinas and Huron to Salinas transitions.
The FAA hoped to save $33 million with the tower closures, part of $637 million in cuts forced on it by Sept. 30. The agency targeted airports averaging fewer than 27 commercial takeoffs and landings daily.
If the worst happens, you can still hop a commercial line into Monterey or San Jose and make your way from there.
Share a seat on the plane with those Apple and Google guys, unless you’re riding coach.
The Yuma to Salinas transition goes by land, of course, and the shippers and processors get it done PDQ. Markon Cooperative suppliers, for example, and Church Bros. LLC packed up, hauled and installed their gear all within a three- to four-day window.
I’ll say more about that in The Packer’s Salinas Valley Vegetables section scheduled to publish April 29. Airports would be hard-pressed to match it for efficiency.
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