2015 Imperial County Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report

Connie Valenzuela presents the Board of Supervisors with the Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.
Imperial County Ag Commissioner Connie Valenzuela presents the Board of Supervisors with the Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

EL CENTRO – The Agricultural Commissioner Sealer of Weight and Measures submitted the 2015 Imperial County Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report totaling $1,925,134,000 in gross production to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning during the regular board meeting.

The report summarized the estimated acreage, yield, and gross value of Imperial County’s agricultural production for calendar year 2015.

“The gross production for 2015 was valued at $1,925,134,000 representing an increase of $66,345,000 (+3.57%) compared to the 2014 gross value of $1,858,789,000,” said Connie Valenzuela, Agricultural Commissioner. “We are still about 10% below the year before (2013) when we were over $2 billion, which was the highest production we ever had.”

Increases came from mainly winter vegetables harvested earlier that year due to early warm weather which left gaps in the supply chain and drove prices up later in the season. Livestock production increased reflecting higher numbers of cattle and sheep along with higher market prices.

“Cattle once again ranked as our #1 commodity, with a gross value of $444,887,000, a substantial increase of 28% from 2014,” explained Valenzuela. “This was due to a 7% increase in head count and a 24% increase in market price.

Leaf lettuce moved back into the top ten commodities from #20 in 2014 to #5 in 2015 due to more planted acres, higher yields, and higher prices according to Valenzuela, and Sudan grass hay dropped in the commodity ranking from #7 in 2014 to #17 in 2015.

In 2015, there was an increase of 25,347 in total harvested acres, up 4.98% from 2014.

“This increase occurred in the field crop, vegetable crop, and seed crop categories,” said Valenzuela. “Wheat showed the largest increase in harvested acres, up 70% with an increase of 26,670 acres.”

2015 top ten commodities in order included: cattle, alfalfa, onions, head lettuce, leaf lettuce, broccoli, alfalfa seed, Bermuda grass hay, wheat and carrots.

Valenzuela said the county saw a decrease in vegetables, melons, fruit and nut crops in 2015.

Kay Pricola, Imperial County Vegetable Growers executive director, thanked Valenzuela and her department for continually composing the report and said it provides a picture of what is happening in the valley.

Pricola also expressed her concern with the recent labor wage laws signed by Governor Brown, increasing the mandatory minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022 and overtime pay for agricultural workers who work more than eight hours of work in the fields beginning in 2022. She said these legislative actions triggered concerns in local farmers.

“We have some of the most productive land in the world — we are able to grow things no one else can grow. In doing these recent increases, and because the farmers don’t set the market price, they will have to make necessary changes,” said Pricola. “My concern is they will lay off employees, they will do crop changes, or some of them will pick up and leave. This will be a severe impact on our economy. We need to be aware of the changes that could occur in the next two to six years and the impact to our economy.”

In 2014, Imperial County ranked #11 out of 58 California counties for gross value of agriculture production at $1,858,789,000 according to the California Agricultural Statistics. Additionally, Imperial County was the sole producer of sugar beets; #1 producer of onion, wheat, Sudan grass and alfalfa seed; and among the top five producers of cattle, lettuce, alfalfa hay, broccoli, celery, carrots, cauliflower, corn, sheep, dates, melons, spinach, potatoes, salad greens, cabbage, and grapefruit.

Nationwide Agricultural Statistics in 2014 ranked California the leading state in the U.S. in cash farm receipts with the leading crops being fruits, nuts and vegetables. California produces over one third of the vegetables and two thirds of the fruit & nuts in the U.S.; California produces nearly all the national production of almonds, dates, figs, kiwifruit, olives, peaches, pistachios, dried plums, raisins and walnuts.

See full report below.