Almond harvest shakes higher gross revenues

Growers generally shook higher gross revenues from their almond trees in 2014 as prices for the popular commodity rose by double-digit percentages.

County crop values increase across California

Stanislaus County produces over 14 percent of the state's almond crop Rice is a major commodity produced in Butte County San Diego County strawberry growers increased acreage by 76 percent in 2014

With the rhythms of harvest in California comes a host of agricultural reports sowed from county statistics throughout the state.

Growers in the northern San Joaquin Valley county of Stanislaus saw their gross receipts jump 20 percent to a record $4.39 billion in 2014. The increase was bolstered by significant prices paid for almonds, walnuts, cattle and calves, milk, turkeys and silage, according to county Ag Commissioner Milton O’Haire.

This happened on 13,000 fewer acres farmed as grower’s fallowed land due to the drought and the reduced surface water allocations for irrigation.

Though gross receipts for the various crops produced in Stanislaus County and elsewhere continue to climb, O’Haire told county supervisors that a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that as cash receipts to California farms rose 5 percent in 2014, profits fell 6 percent because of rising production expenses.

Some Stanislaus County growers suffered more than others in terms of surface water supplies, depending on which irrigation district supplied their surface water.

Once the county’s top commodity, milk was replaced as the top commodity in 2013 by almonds.

Almonds in 2014 climbed to $1.4 billion in gross receipts on over 164,000 bearing acres, a 4,300 acre increase from the previous year. Total yield on the year climbed to 346 million pounds as prices grew 34 percent to an average of $3.90 per pound to the grower.

Stanislaus County produces about 14 percent of the state’s almond crop.

The value of milk from cows and goats rose to over $950 million on prices that for cows averaged over $20 per hundredweight (cwt) for the first time ever and just under $35 per cwt for goat milk.

Total milk production in the county fell less than 1 percent to just under 4.3 billion pounds.

Walnuts growers saw yields and values climb as harvested acreage fell nearly 2,000 acres to over 35,000 acres.

Average walnut production was just over 4,100 pounds per acre for a total of 148 million pounds. Price to the grower climbed slightly to just over $2 per pound.

O’Haire used his crop report this year to share how technology has grown with agricultural production and is helping growers meet various challenges involving irrigation, pest and disease issues and nutrient management.

Elsewhere in the Stanislaus County Crop Report:

  • Peaches were harvested from almost 6,700 acres. Production was mixed as freestone yields were down slightly and cling peach yields increased;
  • Apricot yields fell 10 percent to about 107 million pounds on 4,700 bearing acres;
  • The total value of nursery products fell 2 percent to just under $139 million;
  • Melons were harvested from over 3,000 acres;
  • Broccoli yields remained identical to the previous year on over 2,600 acres grown;
  • Succulent bean production was half what it was the previous year at just over 1,700 acres; and,
  • Sweet potato growers saw yields cut in half but prices more than double on about 1,200 acres of production.

Madera County

Gross crop values in Madera County grew over 19 percent to $2.23 billion in 2014, according to county Ag Commissioner Stephanie McNeill. She attributed stronger commodity prices and improved yields for the increases.

An ever-improving almond market drove the No. 1 commodity in the county to over $770 million in gross value on 106,000 harvested acres, an increase of 7,000 bearing acres over the previous year. Just over one-third of the county’s agricultural value is in almond nuts and hulls.

Despite the growth in acreage, total almond yield fell 12.5 million pounds. Higher prices for nuts and hulls were seen in 2014.

Grape production ran the gamut from raisins to table to wine varieties as 71,000 acres of grapes were harvested. Red wine grape production came from more than 24,000 acres as dried raisins were harvested from over 20,000 acres of vineyards.

Pistachio production increased to 31,000 bearing acres as the young trees began producing more nuts and ultimately higher overall yields. Nearly 98 million pounds of pistachios were produced in Madera County in 2014.

The county’s beekeepers had a relatively good year as they produced more honey, beeswax and offered more colonies for pollination services in 2014. The biggest change in apiary services was seen in the 122 percent rise in beeswax production on the year.

McNiell said 80 beehive shipments received by growers in the county were inspected for the Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA) as over 48,000 hives were imported from RIFA-infested states.

Overall milk production was up slightly as dairy producers saw their average milk price exceed $21 per cwt for the first time in history.

San Diego County

California’s southernmost urban county saw its overall crop value decline 2 percent to $1.81 billion as total acreage devoted to agriculture fell 12 percent to just over 268,000 acres.

Ranked at No. 4 in overall value of the county’s top commodities, avocados cover the largest agricultural footprint in the county at just over 18,000 acres. That figure was down almost 3,000 acres from the previous year.

Avocado yield fell from about five tons per acre to three tons in 2014, dragging with it the total value of the crop to just over $154 million, a 22 percent decrease from the previous year.

San Diego County Agricultural Commissioner Ha Dang blamed the ongoing drought for the lost avocado production.

The big positive mover in San Diego County was strawberries. The berry crop gained 72 percent in total value largely due to a 76 percent increase in planted acreage. Strawberries were harvested from 575 acres in 2014 on yields that were about one ton lighter per acre than the previous year.

Wine grape production remained relatively flat in total acreage (923 acres), per-acre yield and in overall value.

San Diego has over 360 registered organic producers, growing a variety of crops including avocados, citrus, herbs and spices, tomatoes and blueberries.

Butte County

Butte County Agricultural Commissioner Richard Price reported gross receipts in the northern California location at over $810 million, a decline of over $58 million from the previous year.

Almonds, walnuts and rice remain the top three crops produced in Butte County by value.

At about 39,000 bearing acres, a little less than 3 percent of the state’s almond crop is grown in Butte County.

Over 44,000 bearing acres of walnuts with another 3,000-plus ready to come into production are grown in Butte County.

Almond yields in the county were a few pounds lighter than the previous year, but total production was up to 71 million pounds due in large part to about 2,000 new bearing acres that came into production.

Total value of the almond crop was over $241 million on prices that averaged $3.37 per pound to the grower.

Rice production was off a bit in 2014, compared to the previous year. Harvested acreage fell 21 percent to 77,800 acres. This drug down total yield to 684 million pounds as prices were effectively unchanged from the previous year.

Growers also have about 2,500 acres of olives and 713 bearing acres of pistachios in the county.

San Luis Obispo County

Overall crop values fell 2 percent to $902.9 million in San Luis Obispo County, according to county Ag Commissioner Martin Settevendemie.

Top crops produced in the Central Coast location include strawberries and wine grapes, which together make up almost half of the county’s total agricultural value.

The county’s coastal location is also ripe for vegetable production, which includes broccoli (10,000 acres), lettuce (4,300 acres), bell peppers (877 acres), cabbage (720 acres) and numerous other field crops.

Over 270 million pounds of strawberries were harvested from over 3,400 acres. Much of that production went into the fresh market.

Wine grape production fell by volume in 2014 while the number of harvested acres crew by about 1,000. The most popular wine grape grown in the county – about one-third of the overall production – is cabernet sauvignon at more than 12,000 bearing acres.

Chardonnay grapes are the leading white variety grown at over 3,300 acres.

Over 1,600 acres of lemons and over 2,000 acres of English walnuts are grown in the county.

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