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published on September 19, 2017 - 11:46 AM
Written by David Castellon

After three years of Tulare County being California’s and the nation’s top agricultural county, Kern County now holds that title, while Fresno County remains in third place.

That’s the verdict after Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita released her department’s latest crop report this morning, announcing to her county board of supervisors that sales of agricultural commodities in 2016 totaled more than $6.37 billion, about $817.8 million less than Kern County’s $7.18 billion in total ag sales last year.

A big part of the shift had to do with sales of Tulare County ag goods declining by more than $610 million — about 8.8 percent — compared to 2015.

Much of the reason had to do with declining prices for some commodities, including milk.

Even though it remained Tulare County’s top-selling commodity with more than $1.645 billion in sales, that was down by more than $72.4 million compared to 2015.

Milk prices across the country have been low for several years, with only a few short periods in which they’ve been high, but Kinoshita said that over 10 months in 2016, they were low — “Very low, Lower than they’ve been in at least three years.”

Her report put the average price per hundredweight — a hundred pounds — of fresh milk in 2016 at $14.90 compared to $15.30 the previous year.

In addition, the Tulare County crop report states that the gross combined values of livestock and poultry sales decreased by more than 27 percent, in part because the average prices paid for cattle and calves declined in 2016, and the amount of poultry sold declined.

Sales of field crops declined by a whopping 36.5 percent, with the report stating “The loss was mostly attributed to a decrease in price per ton [sold] and acreage.”

walnut harvest
A shuttle cart loads harvested walnuts into a conveyor that loads into the back of a truck southwest of Farmersville. Photo by David Castellon

 

Fruit and nut sales did better, totaling more than $3.28 billion in 2016, a 1 percent increase over the previous year.

Of the 10 top California counties in terms of ag sales in 2015, three haven’t issued their 2016 crop reports yet, though Madera County is expected to make its report public Tuesday afternoon.

Of the six counties that have released reports, five reported declines in ag sales last year, including Tulare, Kings and Fresno counties, the latter of which remains in third place in terms of sales, which totaled $6.18 billion in 2016.

Kings County, which ranked ninth in 2015, had a little more than $2 billion in sales last year.

Fresno County Ag Commissioner Les Wright attributed his county’s decline in 2016 to a third straight year of no surface water allotments for farmers and “less than stellar market conditions” in terms of prices paid for ag goods.

Kings County’s crop report also noted low prices as part of the reason for that county’s decline in sales of farm and ranch goods last year.

As for Kern County, while prices were issues for some crops last year, a huge crop of pistachios offset those declines, said that county’s Ag Commissioner Glenn Fankhauser.

Pistachios are a big crop in Kern County, and after an extremely bad crop in 2015, “It just so happened in 2016 we had a bumper crop,” said the commissioner, whose report cited that pistachio production in 2016 was 4.5 times higher than in 2015.

As such, Kern County pistachio sales totaled more than $769.2 million last year, well above the $245.1 million in sales the previous year.

“We had some declines, but the bump in pistachios was enough to overcome our other losses and then some,” Fankhauser said.

As for Kern County being the No. 1 ag county in 2016 in California and the nation, the commissioner said, “I don’t believe we have ever been number one.”

 

California’s top 10 agricultural counties

   
 

County

2015 Ag sales*

2016 Ag Sales*

   

1

Tulare

$6,980,772

$6,370,121

   

2

Kern

$6,878,664

$7,187,944

   

3

Fresno

$6,605,943

$6,183,960

   

4

Monterey

$4,841,519

$4,256,072

   

5

Stanislaus

$3,879,333

Not available

   

6

Merced

$3,589,900

Not available

   

7

San Joaquin

$2,732,900

$2,337,922

   

8

Ventura

$2,198,555

Not available

   

9

Kings

$2,021,052

$2,002,192

   

10

Madera

$2,016,726

$1,819,489

   
 

Source: California Department of Food and Agriculture, county crop reports

 

*Values in billions of dollars

     

 


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