Following a record-breaking year for county growers in 2014, the Stanislaus County Agricultural Report showed that a number of factors hindered producers from continuing the trend last year, which wrapped up with a staggering $518 million drop in agricultural commodity values.
"This 12 percent decrease in total commodity value is mainly due to a drop in unit price paid to farmers for many of their commodities, the continuing effects of the drought, and changes to global markets," said Stanislaus County Agricultural Commissioner Milton O'Haire. "Over 20,000 acres were fallowed in 2015 due to the drought."
According to the report, which was released Tuesday, the value of agricultural commodities produced in Stanislaus County last year came in at $3.9 billion, which is a 12 percent decrease from 2014's all-time high value for agricultural commodities at $4.4 billion.
"As always we'd like to emphasize that these are gross values of the agricultural commodities, they do not represent the production costs or profits," said O'Haire.
O'Haire said the decrease in value is primarily attributed to a reduction in yields for many commodities due to the sustained drought and a drop in the values of milk, walnuts, almond meats, silage, cattle and calves and turkeys.
Milk underwent the largest decrease amongst agricultural commodities in 2015 with a $304 million-or 32 percent-decrease from 2014. This drop is attributed to a decrease in dairy milk production prompted by lowered milk prices in both market and manufacturing milk.
Valued at $172 million in 2015, walnuts continued their decline on the list of top agricultural commodities throughout the county with a $127 million decrease from 2014 numbers. In 2015, walnuts were surpassed by chickens and in 2014 they were exceeded by cattles and calves.
"Walnuts were hit hard last year with a decrease which reflects a 42.5 percent loss," said Agricultural Inspector Richard Homer. "Walnuts decreased in number of acres, had smaller yields and a very large price drop from $4,020 per ton to $2,622 per ton because of oversupply and increased worldwide competition."
Other agricultural commodities that experienced a decrease in value in 2015 were turkeys at $37 million due to a price drop and six million fewer turkeys and poults, silage at $42 million due to 9,800 fewer acres of corn and a price decrease from $64 per ton to $49 per ton, cattle and calves at $42 million due to the cost of supplemental feeding, lowered prices and fewer beef cattle, and almond meats at $100 million.
"In 2015, almonds had lowered yields and price per ton," said Homer. "There is a soft global demand for California almonds because of the increased strength of the US dollar and the almond industry continues to expand the use of almonds, such as almond crackers, almond butter, almond flour, almond face scrub and as a binder for veggie burgers to name a few.
"Although there has been volatility in the almond prices in the last year, almonds continue to be the driving factor in Stanislaus County for their agricultural economics," continued Homer.
While the value of almonds decreased in 2015, last year marked the third time that the almond industry has achieved the number one commodity spot after overthrowing the dairy business and earning the title as the county's first $1 billion dollar crop in 2013. In 2015, almonds had an overall value of $1.3 billion.
Not all agricultural commodities in Stanislaus County saw a decrease in value in 2015 as the report revealed that almond pollination increased by $4 million due to the increase of almond trees, deciduous fruit and nut trees and vineries increased by over $35 million to reflect a trend towards permanent crops, chickens increased by $52 million due to a 21 percent rise in value and eight million additional birds, and eggs increased by $14 million.
"This is due to the midwest outbreak of avian influenza, which caused the elimination of a reported 48 million birds which drove prices higher," said Homer. "Production in Stanislaus County increased and the price increased by 76 cents per dozen.
To view the 2015 Stanislaus County Agricultural Report, visit stanag.org/crop-reports.shtm.