Much like their counterparts in other parts of the San Joaquin Valley, Kern County growers generally grossed fewer dollars from the sales of their crops and commodities in 2015.
Forced changes in cropping patterns because of too little water for California farmers to flourish, and a massive drop in milk prices, drug Kern County’s 2015 crop value down 9 percent to $6,878,823,690, according to the annual report released Monday by Kern County Agricultural Commissioner Ruben Arroyo.
Much of that loss – about 75 percent – was seen in the livestock and poultry sectors as milk prices fell dramatically.
The decline in gross farm value didn’t surprise Arroyo, though he did say his office expected row crop values to decrease a little more than they did.
Topping the county’s list of most valuable crops, grapes and almonds remained No. 1 and No. 2 with gross receipts near or above $1.5 billion each. Citrus rounds out the top three at over $927 million in gross value.
As the county’s top commodity, total grape acreage remained unchanged from the previous year at 106,200. Internal changes in the grape industry saw acreage gains in wine varieties and a decrease in raisin acreage.
The popularity of almonds pushed total acreage up 5 percent to almost 219,000. Non-bearing acreage remained relatively flat as bearing acres grew by 11,000.
As one of California’s top citrus-producing counties, Kern ranks first in California in the production of seedless, easy-peel varieties known as tangerines and tangelos. Acreage of those varieties grew 7 percent as growers removed 400 acres of Navel oranges and 380 acres of Valencia oranges.
The change in walnut acreage was statistically significant as growers more than doubled the total to 1,863.
Total permanent crop acreage was up 3 percent in Kern County from 2014 to 2015.
By the numbers:
- Almond production was off slightly to just under 2,000 pounds per acre. Based on total state almond production, Kern produced 21 percent of the state’s almond crop in 2015;
- Cherries had a good year last year season. Growers harvested an average of 3,400 pounds per acre. Even though grower prices fell, at the end of the day the total value of cherries produced in the county was up 44 percent;
- Lemons likewise had a good year as yields were up over 59 percent on unchanged prices;
- Yields of other citrus fruit were up slightly;
- Walnut production more than doubled to 2,760 total tons on grower prices 28 percent lower than the previous year;
- Field crops were down in total value across most of the commodities produced in the county;
- Cotton production totaled 63,700 bales, down from 114,700 bales the previous year;
- Alfalfa production was likewise down from 922,000 tons to 723,000 tons, and;
- Silage was the only category up in total production at more than 1.7 million tons.
In all, harvested acres of field crops fell 4 percent on the year.
Potatoes, long a staple vegetable crop produced in Kern County, remained little changed in total acreage at 13,290 with yields off 1 percent.
Total vegetable acreage and gross value remained statistically unchanged from the previous year.
The Kern County crop report is available online.