JUST RELEASED: Monterey County Ag Value Up Nearly Eight Percent

Monterey County 2015 Crop Report Shows Ag Value Up 7.75 Percent

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Monterey County Ag Commissioner Eric Lauritzen announced TODAY the production value by farmers in Monterey County for 2015 is $4.84 billion, an increase of 7.75% or $348 million over the previous year. According to the the 2015 Monterey County Crop Report released TODAY, the Monterey is again the fourth highest Ag producing county in California, following Tulare, Kern, and Fresno Counties.Lettuce fields

“Crop values vary from year to year based on production, market and weather conditions,” said Lauritzen. “As often the case, there was much fluctuation in the 2015 values, with 22 commodities down and 29 commodities increasing in value.

Notable results include:

  • head values increased 12% on better pricing.
  • Head lettuce showed a decline of 2% with fewer acres planted but higher prices.
  • Spring mix and salad products also declined in overall value.
  • Strawberry values increased by 21% on increased acreage and higher production.
  • Cauliflower and celery each saw values increase by approximately 25%. Celery showed a decrease in production with stronger pricing and cauliflower posted increases in both production and pricing.
  • Winegrapes declined 25% in 2015, after above-average production in previous years. This followed the statewide trend, with lower production and slightly higher prices.
  • Despite reduced acreage related to the drought, the value of nursery products increased by 11% on stronger pricing for many products.
Monterey County Strawberries
Monterey County Strawberries

“It is always important to note that the figures provided here are gross values and do not represent or reflect net profit or loss experienced by individual growers or by the industry as a whole,” Lauritzen clarified. “The numbers are big and only tell part of the story. It’s really about diversity and the ability to withstand changes, whether it is commodity change or Mother Nature,” said Lauritzen. 

“Growers do not have control over increased input costs such as fuel, fertilizers and packaging, or drought and labor shortage conditions,” Lauritzen explained, “nor can they significantly affect market prices. The fact that the gross value of agriculture increased reflects positively on the diversity and strength of our agriculture industry and its ability to respond to the many challenges,” he noted.

“The mainstays in Monterey County are the cool season vegetables,” said Lauritzen. “County growers are able modify planting programs even within the same year depending on market strengths or changes in consumer needs. When the cable food shows or restaurants decide to feature certain vegetable there is suddenly increase demand so Monterey County growers are often flexible in their planting schedules to meet demand.

“The Salinas Valley floor is very tight on acreage and available land planted out on the bench lands,” he said. “And growers are being asked to produce more with the same amount or even less ground and we are seeing that it increases prices,” he noted.winegrapes

“Each year we like to highlight a component of the industry in our report,” Lauritzen elaborated, “and this year we chose Certified Farmers Markets. We include a short piece on some of the people who produce and sell their own products directly to consumers at the 14 markets in Monterey County and elsewhere,” he said. “This important segment of our industry lets consumers meet farmers face-to-face and to become more directly connected with the food they eat.”

“Monterey County is proud to produce the crops that are healthy for the nation,” Lauritzen said, “and if consumer demand really matched what we need for a healthy diet, there would not be enough vegetables produced. We produce the food that consumers need to eat and it’s not just an economic driver for our region, but for the health of our nation,” he added.

“This 2015 Crop Report is our yearly opportunity to recognize the growers, shippers, ranchers, and other businesses ancillary to and supportive of agriculture, which is the largest driver of Monterey County’s economy,” Lauritzen summarized. “Special recognition for the production of the report goes to Christina McGinnis, Graham Hunting, Shayla Neufeld, and all of the staff who assisted in compiling this information and improving the quality of the report.”

CDFA ACCEPTING CONCEPT PROPOSALS FOR 2015 FERTILIZER RESEARCH AND EDUCATION GRANTS

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) is currently accepting concept proposals for the 2015 grant cycle. FREP’s competitive grant program funds research that advances the environmentally safe and agronomically sound use of fertilizing materials.

The 2015 Request for Proposals (RFP) includes several initiatives put forth by the department to help effectively manage nitrogen fertilizers in agriculture. New this year is a call for integrating different aspects of nutrient management, including fertigation, irrigation, crop development and soil fertility into easy-to-use decision making tools and concepts that can help improve management practices. Additionally, the FREP seeks concepts and proposals to provide strong education and outreach opportunities on effectively and efficiently managing fertilizing materials.

Proposals for research projects are requested to fill gaps in nitrogen management information for specific crops, including corn, pima cotton, processing tomatoes, walnuts, citrus, and deep rooted vegetables such as carrots. Furthermore, the FREP is encouraging the development and submission of concepts that will demonstrate effective nutrient management practices that have been developed through experimental research trials (e.g., prior FREP research findings).

These demonstrations should implement practices at the field scale in organic and conventional fertilizers. Other priority research areas are developing Best Management Practices (BMPs), along with evaluating strategies and potential technologies to increase crop nitrogen fertilizer uptake; reduce nitrogen movement off irrigated agricultural lands, including nitrate leaching below the root zone; and minimize nitrous oxide emissions from nitrogen fertilizers.

Applicants are invited to submit two-page concept proposals to the FREP by Friday, January 16, 2015. Concepts submitted should be in line with at least one of the program’s identified priority research areas. Further information on the 2015 FREP request for concept proposals, including timelines, application criteria, priority research areas, and examples of successful proposals are available at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/is/ffldrs/frep/CompetitiveGrantProgram.html

In addition to the FREP’s regular RFP, CDFA is preparing a special RFP as part of its nitrogen initiatives. The priority areas for this special RFP are scheduled to be announced early January 2015. 

All concept proposals will be reviewed by the FREP’s Technical Advisory Subcommittee (TASC). Concept proposals that are selected by the TASC will be invited for development into full project proposals.

Applicants may also send e-mail inquiries to FREP@cdfa.ca.gov

Since 1990, the Fertilizer Research and Education Program has funded more than 160 research projects focusing on California’s important and environmentally sensitive cropping systems. A database of completed and ongoing research is publically available at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/is/ffldrs/frep.html

In collaboration with the University of California Davis, FREP is developing fertilization guidelines for major crops grown in California. The guidelines are uploaded on a flow basis and are available to growers and crop advisors through this web-based platform: http://apps.cdfa.ca.gov/frep/docs/guidelines.html

Climate Change Funding for Ag Part of Budget Debate at State Capitol

Source: Nick Miller; Sacramento News and Review

If Sacramento is truly the nation’s farm-to-fork capital, then the state Capitol has an opportunity this week to prove so by putting millions of budget dollars where its mouth is.

Here’s what’s at stake: California’s cap-and-trade carbon tax is expected to generate a cool $850 million next fiscal year. This money needs to be spent on projects that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposes that $25 million of this nut go toward agriculture. That’s not a ton of funding, but it is direly needed, and would be spent on fertilizer management, methane mitigation at dairy farms, biofuels, farmland preservation, plus other sustainability programs that combat climate change.

The catch is that some Democrats in the Senate and Assembly have the governor’s ag money in their crosshairs. They want to use the millions for their own pet projects: urban infill, mass transit, etc. To that end, both houses of the Legislature have proposed their own budget plans.

This concerns sustainable-agriculture advocates. Since most lawmakers represent urban areas, not rural districts, they fear that farmers might end up losing out on some of the state’s first ag-related funding in years. Lawmaker’s budget deadline is next Sunday, June 15.

“I can’t predict how this will go,” said Jeanne Merrill, a policy director with California Climate and Agriculture Network, or CalCAN. But what she does know is that “you can’t seek agriculture solutions to climate change without protecting land.”

When most Californians think of the fight against climate change, they picture doing so by switching out lightbulbs and not running the air conditioner, or by buying hybrid cars and driving less.

“But agriculture’s total emissions … are roughly about 7 percent of the state’s total emissions,” said Ryan Harden, a staff researcher at UC Davis who works on studies for the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission.

He concedes that 7 percent is “not very much compared to electricity use and cars.” But it can make a dent. “Every little bit helps.”

For sure, agriculture has definitely been part of the mix when California’s leaders look at ways to reduce emissions and meet the celebrated Assembly Bill 32’s global-warming goals.

“Natural- and working-land strategies to reduce greenhouse gases aren’t at the top of the list in the building,” said Merrill, “but I think we’ve seen good progress.”

One of the main ways agriculture addresses climate change is with fertilizer. Almost all crops in California need it. But UCD’s Harden said, “One of the bigger sources of greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture is nitrous-oxide emissions from soils,” which comes from chemicals in fertilizer. Some 50 percent of ag’s overall emissions derive from this, he explained.

Harden and others aren’t saying we should stop using fertilizers, however. Farming is too complex and vulnerable to advocate for that, he said. The state does encourage farmers to adopt greenhouse-gas-mitigation tactics on a voluntary basis.

Brown’s budget would allocate $5 million to research ways to improve fertilizers and manage their emissions. Again, that’s not a huge chunk of change. But it’s needed, experts say.

“There are a 400 different kinds of crops in California, with different soil and different watering systems,” said Karen Ross, head of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. She argues that there’s “a huge need to develop a research road map” for how to manage fertilizers, and this funding will help pave the way.

But the feud over farm-to-fork’s funding future is over more than just fertilizer.

Democrat leaders in the Assembly have a different plan. They want to split the $850 million in cap-and-trade money into two pots: Some of this would eventually go toward reducing agricultural waste and “carbon farming,” a method of reducing emissions that is popular with farmers. But there aren’t any guarantees, and critics of the Assembly plan remain uncertain that money will be set aside for priority projects.

The governor’s plan would be managed by Ross’ Department of Food and Agriculture, while the Assembly’s would be under the Strategic Growth Council’s purview (of which Ross is a member).

Over in the Senate, lawmakers recommend setting aside a specific amount of the cap-and-trade revenue, $30 million, but for nonspecific emissions-reduction and water-efficiency projects. This plan builds off the governor’s drought bill, and the California Wildlife Conservation Board would oversee it.

Sustainable-ag groups put up a good face and say they are happy to have any state monies. “We want to make sure some funding goes to agriculture,” Merrill said. “And we’re pleased all three proposals recognize the agriculture as a solution to climate change.”

In a perfect world, however, farmers and advocates would like to see more investment in farmland preservation. This means investing in ag land and ending sprawl policies.

“If you look at the rate of emissions for an urban area, they tend to have 70 times higher emissions than your typical plot of agriculture land,” said Harden. This means that the more farmland conservation takes place, the more Sacramento and the rest of the state can stabilize—and hopefully reduce—emissions.

But, no surprise, conservation often takes a backseat to industry. This is why a large piece of the governor’s budget, $12 million, will go to big-time dairy producers, who hope to install pricey digesters to reduce methane emissions.

That’s not a bad thing. And Ross says it’s a priority, “considering that we have almost 2 million dairy cows in the state and only a handful of dairy digesters.”

But she also advocates for strategic growth, conservation and sustainability: investment in modernization of water irrigation, renewable energy on farms (more than 5,700 state farms primarily use renewable energy, she said), alternative fuels and soil health.

“We can do all these things, and we know they’re the right things to do,” Ross said. But it comes down to money and time.

“When I think about the next generation, I think we’re really going to see tremendous change,” she said.