Written by David Castellon
For the first time since 2013, Fresno County is the top agricultural county in California and the U.S.
This news comes with the Tuesday morning release of the 2018 Tulare County crop and livestock report, which shows sales of agricultural goods produced there last year totaled more than $7.21 billion, a 2.5% increase from ag sales in 2017.
In 2017, Kern County was the top ag county based on sales, followed by Tulare and Fresno counties, respectively.
But based on this latest crop report and those previously released, Fresno County shot up in the rankings to the top spot, with 2018 gross ag sales totaling more than $7.88 billion, followed by more than $7.46 billion in sales by Kern County farmers, ranchers, apiarists and others.
Although the data on 2018 ag sales isn’t in for all California counties and those in the rest of country, Fresno, Tulare and Kern have far and away been the top ag-producing counties in the nation in terms of ag sales.
For years, Fresno held on solidly to the first-place spot until Tulare County knocked it off that spot in 2014. After that, the top ag county title was held annually by either Tulare or Kern counties.
A big part of the reason for Fresno County falling short of the No. 1 ranking those years was due to California’s five-year drought that began in late 2011— the worst in the state’s recorded history — causing major water shortages in the western end of Fresno County that forced farmers there to limit their farming or let fields go fallow.
Weather and water conditions have since improved in the region.
As for the other South Valley counties, ag sales in Kings County totaled more than $2.35 billion last year and $2.05 billion in Madera County.
Those two counties ranked ninth and eleventh, respectively, among California’s ag counties in 2017.
It wasn’t immediately clear how they ranked statewide or nationally in 2018, as those tallies will not be compiled and disclosed until next year.
Madera, Kings and the other three South Valley counties all saw their ag sales totals increase last year.
For Tulare County, long the top dairy county in the U.S., it’s no surprise milk was the top-selling ag commodity in 2018, with sales totaling more than $1.68 billion. But that was down more than 5% — $93.1 million — from 2017 sales.
The report shows that the price of milk purchased from dairies declined from about $16.39 per hundredweight — 100 pounds — in 2017 by about a dollar in 2018, which reduced the total income dairies in the county received for their milk, even though production was up slightly.
It goes on to say that poultry and livestock values among Tulare County sales also declined slightly in 2018.
Sales of field crops rose nearly 9% from 2017 to 2018, which the county’s agricultural commissioner and his staff attributed to higher prices paid for them, while the 5.7% rise in sales of fruits and nuts is at least partially attributed to farmers expanding their production acreage of blueberries, pomegranates and tangerines.
Sales of ornamental trees and shrubs, as well as nursery-raised products, experienced even more vigorous growth over the same period of 47% and 34.7%, respectively, while sales of vegetable crops declined nearly 16% to $17. 2 million.
Part of the reason for the latter drop was due to farmers harvesting 931 fewer acres of vegetables last year compared to 2017, according to the crop report.
Related story: Central Valley tops list of U.S. ag counties