Fresno County crop values hit $6.9B in 2011

Grapes lead a 2011 harvest in Fresno County worth a record $6.8 billion.Grapes lead a 2011 harvest in Fresno County worth a record $6.8 billion.Fresno County gross crop values reached $6.9 billion in 2011, according to the just released and much awaited annual crop report.

It was the first time the $6 billion level had been surpassed. And it represents a 15.84 percent increase from the 2010 production value.

Increases were seen in field crops, vegetable crops, fruit and nut crops, livestock and poultry, livestock and poultry products, apiary and pollination services and industrial crops that include timber and poultry products. County farmers experienced decreases in seed crops and nursery products.

Grapes remain the top crop at a value of $961.7 million and cotton showed big gains, primarily because of a wet winter in 2011. Cotton farmers took in $397.6 million in gross revenue, making it number 6 on the top 10 list of Fresno’s leading crops.

Almond revenue was second on the list at $831.5 million.

Milk was at number 5, receiving $504.5 million.

Carol N. Hafner, county agricultural commissioner, said the report was delayed because the county converted the report to a new electronic record keeping and compilation system this year and some of the bugs of a new process had to be worked out. For one thing, farmers are requested by mail to provide information rather than agricultural officials contacting each farm.

Also the number of staff working on the report dropped from about seven to two workers.

The information notices were mailed out on Feb. 15. Next year the goal is to mail out the information forms on Jan. 1.

Hafner said the new electronic record keeping system should reduce the cost of producing the report in future years. The crop report is posted on the Agricultural Commissioner’s website.

In addressing the Fresno County Board of Supervisors Sept. 25, Hafner said that it is of utmost importance to emphasize that the values of the report reflect gross values only and do not in any manner reflect net income or loss to producers. “The monetary values reflect the first point of sale dollar amount that a grower or rancher receives,” Hafner said. “It does not factor in the outgoing costs to produce the commodity including land preparation, labor, transportation, pest control feed, nutrient supplementation, pacing and storage and manly other costs, which continue to rise. These costs are making it more and more difficult for our agriculturalist to compete with foreign origin food and fiber for the price conscious consumer market.”

She added that the average cost of production per farm in California is the highest in the U.S. at $382,699 and is more than 2 ½ times the $146,653 national average. California farm production costs increased 3.5 percent compared to 2010 and the state led the nation by contributing the most to the 2011 U.S. total expenditures with expenses of $31.2 billion or a 9.8 percent increase.

Agriculture officials believe that in a time of unusually high feed costs and with many dairies declaring bankruptcy, it should be emphasized that it was not a total windfall for farmers and ranchers.

“Several industries have suffered,” Hafner said. “For dairies, it couldn’t get any worse.”