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Jeff Klein is a 4th generation Delta asparagus farmer dating back 100 years. But because of much cheaper competition from Mexican asparagus grown year round, his 450 acres in Stockton, harvested only in the spring, are some of the last still standing in California.

Klein said he believes Delta asparagus is on the cusp of being obsolete, and the North American Free Trade Agreement is partly to blame.

"For one, they can have tariffs when Mexico reaches a certain threshold of what they're importing, as far as when we're in season," Klein explained. "The other thing that needs to happen is the consumer needs to ask for California asparagus."

Klein says NAFTA has not helped at all to level the growing field when it comes to the famous Delta crop. He says, despite a much higher quality of asparagus spear here, something needs to be done, and fast, in order to stay in business against the cheaper import south of the border.

You can buy asparagus from Mexico from $2 to $3 in the store, whereas Delta asparagus will cost you nearly double, thanks to higher labor costs and stricter regulations.

After 70 years in the family, Stockton asparagus grower Joe Ratto said he can no longer afford to harvest his crop.

"We've lost — two years in a row — money in asparagus," Ratto said. "And so we've decided we're going to shut it down."

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The King's Crown asparagus packing warehouse, which opened in 1989, will close its doors for good.

"Every day we have an inspector in our shed, checking the quality and checking our people and checking everything," Ratto added. "We just can't compete with the costs."

Ratto is now focusing on his other crops, like almonds

"Even with production it's getting harder to stay in," Klein said.

In the meantime, Klein continues to stay in the asparagus business by keeping everything in house and paying workers more to harvest faster.

Despite it all, Klein said it comes down to this: "Who wants local asparagus at the grocery store or which retailers want to stick to Mexico's product?."

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