“We hit a record high of $2 billion in agricultural sales in 2013, an 11% increase from last year,” so reported Agricultural Commissioner Connie Valenzuela to the Board of Supervisors last Tuesday summarizing the recently compiled Crop and Livestock report.
The county report does not consider costs and expenses, only gross profit. According to Valenzuela, the USDA report collects 5-year data and will include costs into their overall agriculture report. Therefore she could not tell the board if there was actual profit on any one crop.
The report summarizes the estimated acreage, yield, and gross value of the County’s ag production for 2013.
Valenzuela said the main reasons for the increase were a general increase in yields and market prices. Also helping boost the numbers were lack of natural disasters that subtracted from the bottom line such as last year’s complete loss of the tangerine crop due to frost, and no winter storms as in 2012 that prevented delivery of winter produce to the Northeast and Midwest.
“Twenty years ago we hit the billion dollar mark,” Valenzuela told the board. “Once again we hit a major marker.”
“Out of 18 catagories, 16 showed higher income and 12 had record highs,” Valenzuela added that other counties can have dramatic swings in earnings as they are primarily tied to one or two major crops, but the Valley is so diversified, one crop does not have much effect on the overall picture.
In fact, the county, according to Valenzuela, has between 100 and 130 different commodities with 69 bringing in over one million dollars.
The report showed that organic farming is on the increase. Twenty farms have sustainable organic farming totaling 20,000 acres.
Bees and seed production has leapt to a 50% increase. All commodities showed an increase except field crops and they were down because of the drastic drop in wheat acreage.
Last report in 2012, wheat ranked as the #3 crop grown in the valley. In 2013 43% less wheat was planted meaning 41,000 less acres planted and a 53% less value at the end of the year.
Valenzuela emphasized the difference diversity makes in the total numbers. “We are growing more and more different crops that are high value crops. They don’t even show up individually on the report because they aren’t planted in large enough acres to be listed but instead get lumped into miscellaneous. Yet they are very high value crops, such as basil.”
The 2 billion mark is impressive according to Valenzuela considering the valley had 35,000 less acreage planted because of fallowing and solar farms.
Linsey Dale, Farm Bureau CEO, agreed with Valenzuela. “The farmers had to pay back a tremendous amount of water to the Colorado River for overages, this year will show more acres used as we can have more water.”
Valenzuela said cattle were still the #1 commodity in the valley. “Of course, the figures show the feed lots being fuller than ever and high meat prices. When the report for 2014 is compiled, then the closing of National Beef will come into play. However, I doubt cattle will be knocked out of 1st place because they lead by such a large margin.”