San Diego County’s 2012 crop report was released in August and showed an increase in both crop value and acreage in agriculture.
The county’s overall $1,747,069,810 crop value for 2012 is a 3.6 percent increase over the 2011 total value of $1,683,745,072 while the 303,983 production acres of 2012 are an increase of 1.0 percent over the 2011 figure of 300,786.
“All in all it was a pleasant report,” said San Diego County Farm Bureau executive director Eric Larson. “It didn’t show any backsliding, which was nice.”
San Diego County had 302,713 acres in agricultural production in 2010, so the 2011 figure was a drop of 0.6 percent. That acreage decrease between 2010 and 2011 included a 6.6 percent drop for fruit and nut crops from 36,239 to 33,838 and a 7.6 percent decrease in avocado farming from 19,133 to 17,673.
Nursery and cut flower products, fruit and nut crops, vegetables, field crops, apiary products, timber products, livestock and poultry, and livestock and poultry products all had increased values from 2011 to 2012. “The growth really came from price changes as much as anything,” Larson said.
Nursery and cut flower products increased 4.6 percent in acreage, from 12,173 to 12,735, and 1.5 percent in value, from $1,092,916,550 to $1,109,275,096. Fruit and nut acreage rose 13.9 percent from 33,838 to 38,535 with a total value increase of 6.1 percent from $319,205,955 to $338,808,324. Vegetable acreage dropped 18.7 percent from 6,686 to 5,436 although total vegetable crop value increased 6.5 percent from $177,013,955 to $188,496,460. Field crop acreage declined 0.3 percent from 248,089 to 247,277 although field crop value rose 19.5 percent from $5,038,735 to $6,021,294. Livestock and poultry value rose 14.8 percent from $20,996,688 to $24,099,053 while the value of livestock and poultry products increased 17.6 percent from $65,550,005 to $77,114,130.
The county’s Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures relies on farmers to complete surveys, and industry groups provide AWM with statistics to help make up for uncompleted surveys, but some differences can be due to reporting issues rather than actual crop fluctuations. “Some of that could be measurement,” Larson said.
The closure of Dowle Dairy earlier this year meant that 2012 crop information from that Ramona dairy was not provided and thus resulted in the statistical elimination of three field crops grown at the dairy for feed.
Ornamental trees and shrubs, indoor flowering and foliage plants, and color bedding plants retained their positions as the county’s top three crops in terms of production value. “Glad to see that nursery is still doing well,” Larson said.
Avocados maintained the fourth position despite a 24.1 percent drop in value from $208,131,027 to $157,901,949, although acreage and tonnage rose. “When you produce more, price is going to drop as well,” Larson said. “That’s going to put a lot more product into the marketplace.”
Avocado acreage increased 26.9 percent from 17,673 to 22,419. “I’ve been seeing avocado growers go out of production because of high water costs,” Larson said. “It appears that it’s starting to crank back up.”
Avocado tonnage increased 43.1 percent from 65,188 to 93,294, so the decrease in avocado crop value was due to declining prices. “A lot of that has to do with the timing of the market,” Larson said.
Hass avocados increased 29.9 percent in acreage from 16,201 to 21,031 and 49.6 percent in tonnage from 60,564 to 90,634 but fell 20.6 percent in value from $195,356,160 to $155,099,702. Lamb-Hass avocados declined 9.7 percent in acreage from 1,031 to 931, 49.5 percent in tonnage from 3,775 to 1,907, and 80.4 percent in value from $11,496,627 to $2,254,352. All other avocados increased 2.0 percent in acreage from 441 to 450 but fell 12.2 percent in tonnage from 849 to 745 and 57.1 percent in value from $1,278,240 to $547,895.
Tomatoes retained the fifth position among the county’s crops despite a 34.1 percent acreage drop from 2,167 to 1,427 and a 68.6 percent tonnage decrease from 90,797 to 28,540. A 256.9 percent increase from $902 to $3,219 per ton resulted in a 12.2 percent value gain from $81,899,165 to $91,870,260.
In 2011, chicken market eggs ranked sixth at $54,665,626 while lemons ranked seventh at $40,718,400. The two crops switched positions for 2012 with lemons accounting for $71,824,389 of the county’s crop value and eggs providing $67,268,538. Lemon acreage dropped from 3,992 to 3,447 and tonnage declined from 71,856 to 69,540, but an 85.4 percent increase from $625 per ton to $1,159 per ton for fresh market lemons resulted in a 76.4 percent increase for fresh market lemons from $39,920,000 to $68,507,331. The average price per ton for lemon byproduct rose from $110 to $338 to create an increase from $798,400 to $3,317,058.
Egg production was relatively stable with 70,994,230 dozen in 2011 and 70,071,394 dozen in 2012, but a 23.1 percent rise in the price per dozen from 77 cents to 96 cents caused the value increase.
“Eggs had a nice jump in price,” Larson said. “That gave a nice bump without producing a whole lot more eggs.”
Foliage crops fell out of the top 10 despite a 1.1 percent gain in value from $19,938,534 to $20,160,000 and an increase in acreage from 838 to 840. Foliage plants had been 10th among the 2011 crops. Strawberries, whose $13,764,000 value in 2011 ranked 14th, moved into ninth place due to a 61.8 percent value increase to $23,133,600. Although the price per ton for strawberries dropped 10.7 percent from $2,000 to $1,785, the crop increased 62.2 percent in acreage from 222 to 360 and 88.3 percent in tonnage from 6,882 to 12,960.
Larson attributed the gain to the demand for locally-grown fruit.
“A lot of the strawberries produced in San Diego County stay local,” he said.
Macadamia nuts stayed constant with 67 acres harvested and 67 tons produced both in 2011 and 2012, but a 51.4 increase in price from $2,400 to $3,633 per ton led to a corresponding value increase from $160,000 to $243,411.
Persimmons increased 12.1 percent in acreage from 421 to 472 but dropped 20.8 percent in tonnage from 1,789 to 1,416. A 115.9 percent increase from $599 to $1,293 per ton resulted in a 70.8 crop value gain from $1,071,761 to $1,830,888.
The crop value for wine grapes rose 512.0 percent from $903,552 to $5,529,907 while tonnage increased 478.5 percent from 832 to 4,813. Wine grape acreage had an 80.8 percent gain from 416 to 752 while the price per ton increased 5.8 percent from $1,086 to $1,149.
“That number’s going to continue to rise because people are still planting grapes out there,” Larson said.
Larson notes that some recently-planted vines have matured to the point where growers have significant numbers to report. “They’re starting to be measured,” Larson said. “A lot of those finally came on the radar.”
Other growers have not yet reached that level. “There are a lot of small ones. That makes it hard to find them,” Larson said.
In 2011, barley grain accounted for 530 acres and $55,968, greenchop (grass grown to feed cattle) had 38 acres and a $22,572 value, and 26 acres of silage constituted a crop value of $13,619. There were no reports of those crops for 2012. “That’s probably one dairy farmer producing his own,” Larson said.
The closure of Dowle Dairy leaves the county with three remaining dairies: Van Ommering Dairy in Lakeside, TD Dairy in Ramona, and Konyn Dairy in San Pasqual.