While the future data concerning Stanislaus County agriculture may be uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic, the annual agricultural report for 2019 reflected the strong farming economy local residents and consumers have come to expect.
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors were presented with the Agricultural Report for 2019 in August, which showed that the value of agricultural commodities produced here last year increased one percent from 2018 to 2019, going from $3,569,990,000 to $3,598,404,000. According to Richard Homer of the agricultural commissioner’s office, these numbers solidify Stanislaus County’s place as the fifth-largest agricultural county in the state and nation.
“Any other city, county would die to have an industry like we have here,” said Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow.
Agricultural Commissioner Milton O’Haire stated that while the annual report provides a statistical description of the county’s agricultural production, the gross values don’t reflect production costs or profits. They don’t reflect increases in retail prices like we’ve seen locally during the pandemic, either.
“In most cases, higher profits at retail are not passed down to the producer,” O’Haire said.
While the overall value of agricultural commodities increased by just one percent, there were some commodities that experienced significant changes. More dairy and poultry producers switched from organic to conventional farming methods in 2019, decreasing Stanislaus County’s organic products by $132 million. Keeping on pace with past years, almonds increased by $121 million in 2019 as 20,000 new acres came into production. In 2018, 8,500 acres of almonds were harvested.
Almonds remained the No. 1 crop in Stanislaus County in 2019 according to the report with a value of $1,228,536,000. The large number of harvested acres contributed in part for the $121 million increase from 2018, along with higher almond prices. In 2018, almonds represented 30 percent of the county’s total commodity value; in 2019, almonds accounted for 34 percent.
The second-highest valued commodity in 2019 was milk even though it suffered a $7 million decrease from 2018. This decrease was common for other counties as well, Homer said. Milk accounts for 17 percent of the county’s total commodity value.
“Milk prices increased slightly, but with the new reporting method of dairy cow milk production, most of the Valley counties had reduced production levels even with stable herd populations,” he said.
Chickens came in at No. 3 and were valued at $365,786,000 in 2019 — an increase of $89 million. Although chick numbers declined, an additional 3.2 million chickens were raised last year. The fourth-ranked commodity in 2019 were cattle and calves, which account for six percent of total commodity value. This commodity saw a decrease of $39 million last year with losses in every subcategory.
“An example of this includes dairy drop cows, which went from $49 per head in 2018 to $18.75 in 2019,” Homer said.
Nursery, vines, and fruit and nut trees came in on the top 10 list at No. 5, followed by silage and walnuts at sixth and seventh, respectively. The three commodities combined account for 12 percent of the county’s total commodity value. After experiencing loss in 2018, walnuts bounded back in 2019 with an increase of $20 million. While walnut farmers saw a slight decrease in acres and yield, prices increased by $443 per ton.
Almond pollination continues to grow along with almond production in Stanislaus county, and is ranked at No. 8 on the top commodities list. Pollination was valued at $83,945,000 in 2019, increasing by $8 million, and represented two percent of the total commodity value. Turkeys decreased by $3 million in 2019 but still came in at No. 9 on the list, while melons came in at No. 10 and entered the top 10 for the first time with a total value of $51,490,000.
The increase in melon production comes thanks to more growers producing larger, more profitable fruits.
“Melons are new to the top 10 this year as growers are changing by producing 662 less acres of cantaloupes and increasing 825 acres of mostly watermelons,” Homer said. “Watermelons’ yields increased because more full-size melon acres were produced, compared to many watermelons, and the price increased by 20 percent.”
As a whole, the top 10 commodities in Stanislaus County represent 85 percent of the county’s total production value. When combined with the other 220 commodities produced in Stanislaus County, the area’s agricultural production ranks higher than 20 states.
Stanislaus County also issued 10,538 export certificates to 112 countries in 2019, which are issued to certify that the commodity meets the plant cleanliness requirements of the importing country. The top 10 countries that Stanislaus County exported commodities to in 2019 are the United Arab Emirates (993 certificates), Japan (910), Spain (804), Republic of Korea (745), Germany (501), Turkey (427), India (404), Hong Kong (373), Italy (369) and the Netherlands (277).
Of those certificates, 59 percent were for almonds, 25 percent for walnuts, 12 percent for seed, one percent for fruit, one percent for spices and all other combined commodities accounted for the remaining two percent.
It’s all thanks to the farmers in Stanislaus County, where there were 3,621 farms in 2019. Of those, 94 percent were family farms and 64 percent were orchard farms. They are made up of 722,546 acres with an average of 200 acres per farm. The largest farmer in Stanislaus County is 850 acres, and the smallest is .02 acres. The average age of a Stanislaus County farmer is 59.6.
Supervisor Kristin Olsen said that her heart is with cattle farmers in the Del Puerto Canyon, who are being forced to sell their livestock as plans move forward to turn the area into a dam.
“We’re so blessed to live in a community with such bountiful agriculture,” she said. “We literally are responsible for feeding the world, as we know, in many respects.”
To view the Stanislaus County Agricultural Report of 2019 in full, visit http://www.stanag.org/pdf/cropreport/cropreport2019.pdf.