The Stanislaus County Agricultural Report released Sept. 26 revealed that the value of agricultural commodities in the region continued to drop in 2016, with impacts from the drought and other factors contributing to a decrease of $618 million in crop value for county growers.
The substantial drop in value of crops produced in 2016 comes after a 2015 growing year which suffered a $518 million decrease, just one year after county growers saw record-breaking numbers in 2014. From 2014 to 2015, the total commodity value dropped 12 percent, and from 2015 to 2016, value fell 16 percent. Total commodity value in 2016 was shown in the report to be $3.3 billion, compared to $4.4 billion in 2014 - an all-time high.
The decrease in the total commodity value for crops grown in Stanislaus County was most likely caused by a number of issues, said Agricultural Commissioner Milton O'Haire, including the drought and a drop in the values of multiple crops, like almond meats, cattle and calves, silage, milk and walnuts. The lack of water throughout the county and low-priced crops resulted in a reduction of yields for many commodities, he said.
"I'd like to emphasize that these are gross values, this is what the growers are paid. This doesn't account for any production costs or profits," said O'Haire. "Despite an uptick in harvested acres, residual impacts from the five-year drought affected yields of some of the commodities."
Despite holding the number one spot as the county's top crop, almonds posted the largest value decrease, dropping $366 million from 2015 to 2016. Almonds were ranked as the top crop in 2015 as well, but with a total value of $1.3 billion. This year, the crop dropped below the $1 billion mark with $931 million in total value.
Agricultural Inspector Richard Homer, who helped compile statistical data for the report, said that despite a record-breaking number of almond acres in Stanislaus County in 2016, reduced prices for almond meats (a drop of $2,460 per ton), hulls (dropped from $130 to $60 per ton) and shells (dropped from $25 to $5 per ton) resulted in a drop in value for the crop.
"Some companies were giving away their shells to clear their inventory," said Homer.
Cattle and calves came in behind almonds as the commodity with the second-greatest drop in value, falling $104 million and going from the number three crop in 2015 to number four in 2016. The drop in cattle and calves' value was the result of dramatically reduced prices for cattle from 2015 to 2016, said Homer.
For the third straight year, walnuts fell down the list of the county's top crops, going from fifth to sixth and dropping in value by $37 million. This year, walnuts were surpassed by nursery fruit trees, nut trees and vines on the list. In 2015, chickens went ahead of walnuts on the list and in 2014, they were exceeded by cattle and calves.
"The total amount of walnut acres increased, along with yield, but prices dropped by $695 a ton," said Homer.
Other agricultural commodities that experienced a drop in value in 2016 were silage at $46 million due to decreased prices, chickens at $9 million due to a drop in production by nearly a million birds and a slight decrease in price per bird and milk at $36 million due to a small drop in production and decreased prices in all milk categories.
Four of the top 10 crops saw an increase in value, including almond pollinations, which increased by $2 million thanks to an increase in almond acres and slight increase in hive cost, peaches at $11 million, turkeys at $8 million, with the total amount of birds sold increasing by over 200,000 birds, and nursery fruit trees, nut trees and vines, which increased by $36 million.
"The number of units sold increased by over three million trees and vines," said Homer. "This shows that farmers are continuing to plan crops for agriculture's future."
According to Homer, the top 10 crops in Stanislaus County alone represent 83 percent of the county's total crop values. When the top crops are added to the other 210 crops that are grown throughout the county, Stanislaus County ranks higher than 18 states, beating places like New Mexico and Louisiana in agricultural value.
"Just our top 10 crops' value, $2.7 billion, would beat 16 other states," said Homer.
To view the 2016 Stanislaus County Agricultural Report, visit www.stanag.org.