The Great Pumpkin Shortage

A lot of farmers feel like the characters in the "Peanuts" comic strip this Halloween season, waiting in vain for the Great Pumpkin.

This year's harvest is turning out to be a huge disappointment, reports CBS News correspondent Susan McGinnis.

So much so that many of the pumpkins found by folks who pick their own at local farms are being trucked in from as far away as Canada and spread around the fields in many states.

In Stow, Mass., Ray Mong's farm produced 80 percent fewer pumpkins than normal. He shipped in the ones in his fields from Vermont. He says heavy rains this spring washed out his crop.

"With the cloudy weather and damp moist conditions, they just never took off," Mong explained.

The United States Department of Agriculture says farmers in eight states in the Northeast and Midwest have reported problems with their crops, and many expect lower than normal yields.

The suffering of farmers in New Jersey isn't just from the rains. Some vines there are infected with a fungus called phytophthora, which causes them to produce no fruit.

"We've had about an 80 percent loss of vines," laments Meyersville, N.J., farmer Skeeter Kielblock.

Kielblock, who has been a pumpkin farmer most of his life, tells McGinnis such outbreaks happen every so often, but this year's is one of the worst.

Trucking in pumpkins is adding to the cost of doing business, and the cost of a pumpkin.

Says Kielblock, "On a big pumpkin, it's going to be an extra $2."

But for Kielblock, pumpkins aren't only about profits.

"What's better than to see a kid picking a pumpkin?" he asks. "It's about the little faces."

And kids McGinnis asked agreed: You can't have Halloween without a pumpkin.

McGinnis added that the same fungus affecting pumpkins is beginning to affect Christmas trees in some areas.
  • Brian Dakss

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