Kings County added 7,000 acres of pistachio production in 2018.
Written by David Castellon
Kings County farmers and ranchers had their second-biggest year ever in agricultural sales in 2018.
In all, sales for the year totaled more than $2.3 billion, exceeding 2017 sales by more than 14%, about $293.5 million.
Fruit and nut sales help elevate 2018 ag sales, as they totaled more than $145.5 million, up 28% compared to the previous year.
In a letter delivered last month to Kings County supervisors with the annual crop report, county Agricultural Commissioner Jimmy Hook credited much of that rise to higher production and prices paid for pistachios.
Kings County farmers added about 7,000 new acres of pistachios last year compared to 2017, and pistachio prices increased by an average of $200 a ton — to $4,260 — over that same period. As a result, pistachio sales in the county rose from more than $116.1 million in 2017 to $286.7 million last year.
Field crop sales rose by more than 21% last year, thanks largely to higher prices paid for hay, alfalfa and corn silage, along with higher cotton yields in the county, while vegetable crop sales increased by nearly 20%, and livestock and poultry sales increased by 9%.
Low prices paid for some crops, which was a prevalent problem for Valley ag operations in 2017, didn’t appear to be nearly as big a problem in 2018. In fact, higher prices paid were a big part of the reason why sales of seed crops in Kings County rose by a whopping 77 percent last year compared to 2017.
The only Kings County ag commodity that had a decrease in sales last year was apiary — honey, beeswax, pollination services — which totaled more than $15.4 million, down by about $232,000 from the previous year.
The ag commissioner credited the decline to lower prices farmers paid last year to get their crops pollinated.
Milk continued in 2018 to be Kings County’s top ag commodity, with sales totaling more than $676.6 million.
Though a good year in ag sales, 2018 wasn’t the county’s best. That distinction belongs to 2014, when sales exceeded $2.47 billion.
Kings County ranked ninth in total ag sales in California in 2017 — the latest figure available — with neighboring Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties ranking first, second and third, respectively.
Their annual county crop reports haven’t been released yet, but they’re expected in the coming weeks.