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Stanislaus in top 10 of U.S. ag counties
• $2.9 billion in ag products each year
California almond production
California continues have nine of the top-10 counties in the U.S in agricultural production, and Stanislaus County is No. 8 on the list with a total production value of $2.9 billion. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Stanislaus County was one of the top 10 ag-producing counties in the entire nation during 2022, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

NASS recently released the results of the 2022 Census of Agriculture, spanning more than 6 million data points about America’s farms and ranches and the people who operate them.

Among the findings — California continues have nine of the top-10 counties in the U.S in agricultural production, and Stanislaus County is No. 8 on the list with a total production value of $2.9 billion, according to the report.

Fresno County was first in the nation, with a total production value of $7 billion, followed by Tulare ($6.4B), Monterey ($5.5B), Kern ($5B), Merced ($4B), Imperial and San Joaquin ($3B) counties.

“I think that goes to show you that we have a very strong and vibrant agriculture economy and community,” said Linda Pinfold, the Stanislaus County ag commissioner. “I’m very proud and honored that I get to serve that community.”

Santa Barbara and Grant County, Wash. — the only non-California county to crack the list — rounded out the top 10 with $2.6 billion total production value each.

“Once again, California has the top agricultural counties in the nation, which is a testament to the resilience and innovation of all those involved in food production,” said California’s Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. “I wish to thank our partners at NASS for the very detailed work required to produce the Census. These data are essential as we consider allocation of resources in our ongoing commitment to help California’s farmers and ranchers remain sustainable and flourishing.”

Census of agriculture information, which is collected directly from producers, shows a continued decline in the total number of California farms. However, the data also show an increase in the value of agriculture sales in California.

“I think it’s so cool to learn that we rank so high in the nation,” said Caitie Diemel, executive director of the county’s Farm Bureau. “Stanislaus County is pretty unique in that the average size farm here is smaller than that of the state’s average farm. That’s because we have a lot of small, family-owned farms, working hard to produce so much good, safe food here in California, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Milk was the No. 1 commodity for Stanislaus County in 2022, followed by almonds, combining to make up 50 percent of the county’s entire production.

The 2022 ag census shows the following key trends for the state:

• The number of farms decreased to 63,134, down 10 percent from 2017 with an average size of 383 acres (up 10 percent) on 24.2 million acres of farmland (down 1 percent).

• The market value of agricultural products sold totaled a national-best $59 billion — up $13.8 billion from 2017 — and that’s more than $15 billion ahead of No. 2 Iowa.

• Total farm production expenses totaled $49.3 billion, up $11.5 billion from 2017.

• At 16,699 farms, California is the top state using renewable energy producing systems in agriculture. Solar is the most common renewable energy producing system on farms and ranches in The Golden State.

• Fresno County’s 2022 agricultural sales were greater than that of 23 separate states.

• The average age of the California farmer is 59.9, up from 59.2 in 2017.

It’s that last statistic that has Pinfold concerned about the future of farming.

“Who’s going to be our future farmers?” said Pinfold. “Who’s going to take the mantle and keep that going strong? A lot of our farms are multi-generational. A lot of people grew up on farms but don’t come back to farm. Who’s going to be the next? That to me is important.”

The national response rate for the 2022 Census of Agriculture was 61 percent; more than 40 percent of responses were submitted online. California’ response rate was 56 percent. Additional statistical reports, including state and county profiles and congressional districts, will be released throughout 2024.