Warm weather and generally good growing conditions translate into large volumes of high-quality fresh commercial vegetables and continuing low prices for producers, according to the latest USDA Vegetables and Melons Outlook Report.

Prices in the first quarter of 2012 were almost 50 percent lower than the previous year.

Lettuce and tomato prices were particularly hard-hit with declinesof more than 60 percent, and there are some reports of economic abandonment in tomatoes.

Snap bean prices were more resilient with first quarter prices down less than 10 percent over the previous year.

While some improvement is projected for fresh vegetable prices in the second and third quarters of 2012, prices will likely still remain below 2011 levels.

April shipments of most vegetable crops eased from the high levels of winter and early spring, although when compared with 2011, volumes remain high in many cases.

Again, tomatoes are notable with a 40-percent increase in shipments of field Roma tomatoes and a 16 percent increase in shipments of all greenhouse tomatoes in April 2012 over the previous year.

Shipments of round field tomatoes in April were slightly lower than the same month in 2011. Continued high availability from imports and greenhouse production with the subsequent downward pressure on prices likely limited shipments of field-grown round tomatoes as growers opted to forgo harvest.

Although acreage planted to round field-grown tomatoes has been trending downward over time, shipments were up 17 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to 2011.

Spring shipments of dry bulb onions are lower than the previous year. Warm weather allowed an early start to the sweet onion season in both Georgia and Texas. Smaller sizes and lower volumes were reported in some areas in response to problems with downy mildew.

Onion prices showed some recovery from the lows reported earlier in 2012. The May 2012 Producer Price Index for dry bulb onions was up almost 60 percent over the March 2012 index and almost 33 percent compared to May 2011.