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Agriculture Today - June 2009

Fresno County agriculture totals $5.6 billion for 2008

For some Fresno County farmers and ranchers, 2008 was a year full of challenges, including severe water shortages, increased regulatory burdens and the beginning of a global recession reducing demand for agricultural products. Despite this, 2008 proved to be another record-breaker with more than $5.662 billion in food and fiber products produced in Fresno County.

On June 2, Fresno County Agriculture Commissioner Carol Hafner presented the County's 2008 Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report to the Board of Supervisors, announcing the annual production value for all crops produced in Fresno County. The $5.662 billion represents a 5.9 percent increase over 2007. The growth of Fresno County agriculture has been steady over the last couple of decades. Just over 25 years ago, the 1982 production value was $1.85 billion. Once again, this year sets a new benchmark, but 2008's total will be hard to beat because of multiple years of drought-induced acreage and production reductions and record-low milk prices.

Hafner reiterated that the numbers reflect gross value. The cost of production is not reflected in the report.

Hafner added that Fresno County agricultural producers continue to face what looks to be a dire year in 2009 due to numerous challenges. "The continuing depression that our agricultural industry is facing due to increased fuel and transportation costs, labor laws, air and water quality regulations, the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Mother Nature's miserly water allocation to California is crippling," she said. "Many [farmers] have not and will not survive in 2009."

Hafner pointed out the crop report confirmed many trends throughout the Valley, including a drastically reduced acreage of cotton due to water availability. Cotton, which once rivaled grapes for the top spot, came in at number 15 with a total harvested acreage of 69,800 acres of Pima and Upland varieties. In 1996, total cotton acreage was 401,300. This marks the first time cotton was not in the top 10 in 32 years.

Grapes continued to be number one crop in Fresno County, accounting for over $723 million in gross value. Rounding out the top 10 crops in 2008 are: 2) almonds, $593 million; 3) Poultry, $556 million; 4) Milk, $458 million; 5) Tomatoes, $452 million; 6) Cattle and Calves, $323 million; 7) Peaches, $190 million; 8) Oranges, $178 million; 9) Garlic, $170 million; and 10) Nectarines, $152 million.

Fruit and nut crops continue to lead the County, accounting for 42.61 percent of total gross value. Livestock and poultry account for 24.33 percent of the County's gross value, and vegetable crops account for 22.23 percent of the County's gross value.

Fresno County saw an increase in the following commodity groups: field crops, 5.84 percent, or $11 million; fruit and nut crops, 14.22 percent, or $300 million; livestock and poultry, 7.11 percent, or $60 million; and industrial crops, 23.07 percent, or $785,000.

On the flip side, Fresno County saw a decrease in other commodity groups, including: vegetable groups, 2.65 percent, or $34 million; nursery products, 13.45 percent, or $5 million; livestock and poultry products, 8.04 percent, or $41 million; and apiary and pollination services, 9.33 percent or $3 million.

In hearing the announcement, Supervisor Judy Case said while this is usually a day of celebration, there is major cause for concern. "While the number reflects gross value, it does not begin to reflect the vitality of agriculture to the region," she said. She said that 480,000 acres of farmland being fallowed in Fresno County (this year) has and will have a major negative impact on the county. In addition, she expressed grave concern for the current dairy crisis, pointing out that producers in her district are shutting down their operations.

Supervisor Phil Larson echoed Case's concern on the current water crisis, putting major emphasis on the negative impact caused by the preference of Delta Smelt over people and the impact the ESA is having on local communities.

As part of the Report release, Hafner and her staff provided locally purchased produce to the Board of Supervisors. It was recommended by Supervisor Susan Anderson that the produce be donated to a local non-profit organization.

The 2008 Annual Crop Report is available on the Ag Commissioner's website here.