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Almonds remain Stanislaus County’s top crop, despite grower challenges
• Chiesa predicts 2022 will be much worse
2022 ag commodities
Stanislaus County's top commodities during 2021.

Stanislaus County’s agricultural report for 2021 was released last week, and for the ninth consecutive year almonds rank as the No. 1 commodity, making up nearly a third of the county’s entire ag production.

The total value of almonds in 2021 was $1,084,744,000 — or 32 percent of the county’s ag production. That figure was down about $39 million from the previous year. 

Considering that the nation still was dealing with the coronavirus pandemic for much of 2021 that number isn’t too disappointing.

“It’s been one thing after another,” said local grower Christine Gemperle, co-owner of Gemperle Orchards and a member of the Almond Board of California. “Back in 2017, we started the trade wars, then there was COVID, supply chain issues, then a giant crop in 2020 followed by a crop we couldn’t get out of the country. There have been lots of challenges.”

Milk – which was the county’s top commodity for more than 50 years until almonds took over in 2013 – accounted for 24 percent of commodities in the county with a gross value of just over $800 million. That’s up from $736 million in 2020.

Poultry, which accounts for 10 percent of all ag commodities, was down slightly, from about $343 million in 2020 to $334 million last year.

Rounding out the Top 10 were cattle and calves (5 percent), nursery fruit and nut trees and vines (4 percent), silage (4 percent), walnuts (3 percent), almond pollination (3 percent), cherries (2 percent) and hay (1 percent).

Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa, himself an almond grower in the Hughson area, wasn’t surprised that almond production dipped for a second consecutive year. But he warned that next year could look much different.

“I don’t want to sound too whiny … 2022 is going to be much worse,” said Chiesa. “Ag is cyclical, and nuts tend to do better with a weak dollar and in a weaker economy. But with inflation and interest rates rising, your guess is as good as mine as to what it will look like. I’ve never been as uncertain. Do I think it will work itself out? Hopefully, but it’s an uncertain world right now, that’s for sure.”

While almonds were down slightly, overall, fruit and nut crops increased their combined value in 2021, with walnuts, cherries, apricots and wine grapes all on the upswing.

Total field crops also increased value, going from $172.8 million in 2020 to $219.5 million in 2021.

Apiary products — honey jumped from $15 million to almost $19 million — increased total value to nearly $112 million, a bump of $6 million from the previous year.

Total livestock and poultry were down more than $100 million, from about $609 million to $503 million.

The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau gave its Distinguished Service Award to Ceres resident Wayne Zipser, who retired in March after 35 years with the SCFB and nearly 20 as its executive director.

For the second consecutive year, an award for Farmworker of the Year was handed out. Sponsored by AgSafe, Modesto Rotary and the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, the 2021 award was given to Gonzalo Torres, a labor and field safety supervisor at Braden Farms in Hughson.