Andy Nelson, Markets Editor
Andy Nelson, Markets Editor

In early April I talked to Jim Cathey, general manager of Nogales, Ariz.-based Del Campo Supreme, about tomato markets.

The tapering off of Mexican field production, Cathey and other importers and grower-shippers told me, could give a much-needed boost to markets.

There was a catch, however, Cathey said.

Greenhouse tomato production in Leamington, Ontario, was running ahead of schedule because of unseasonably warm temperatures.

If volumes came on too fast from Canada, it could slow the upward trajectory of tomato prices.

It was at that point in our conversation that Cathey took a step back from the topic at hand and got all heavy on me.

“When it was 70 degrees in March in Leamington, Chiapas was getting hail,” he said, referring to the state in the far south of Mexico.

“Anyone telling you the climate hasn’t changed around the world has got their head in the sand.”

Fast forward a couple of weeks. On April 18, the results of a poll on global warming commissioned by Yale University and George Mason University and conducted by Knowledge Networks were released.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans polled agree with the statement, “Global warming is affecting the weather in the United States.”

Specifically, a majority of those polled said global warming contributed to this year’s warm winter, last year’s hot summer, droughts in 2011 in Texas and Oklahoma, record U.S. snowfalls in 2010 and 2011 and Mississippi River flooding in 2011.

(To that list I’d like to add the Missouri River flooding of 2011, which closed crucial stretches of Interstate 29 for months and turned the three-hour jaunt to my native Lincoln, Neb., into a five-hour slog.)

On the same day news of the poll broke, I talked to apple growers in Michigan, where exceptionally warm weather brought blooms on much earlier than usual, exposing them to freezes when temperatures returned to seasonal norms.

By “much earlier” I mean historically early. One grower-shipper told me he hadn’t seen blooms that early in his 35 years in the industry. And from what the “real old-timers,” as he called them, said, nobody else had, either.

Regarding that poll, it bears pointing out that people taking a poll aren’t scientists.

But in this case, what the Joes on the street said jibes with what many, if not most, scientists believe: that the recent warming trend (the past 11 years, 2001 through 2011, are 11 of the 12 warmest years on record) not only raises average temperatures, it also produces more extremes of weather — hot and cold, wet and dry.

You don’t hear much about this connection — or about global warming, period, for that matter — in the produce industry. In addition to Cathey’s recent comment, I can recall two others in nearly 11 years at The Packer.

If the tide of public opinion is really turning on global warming and its connection to extreme weather, you can bet politicians in Washington, ever fearful of losing their jobs, will put global warming higher up on their agendas.

Here’s guessing it pops up more on the produce industry’s radar, too.

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