Fresno County Ag Value Down in 2015 Crop Report

Fresno County Ag Commissioner Les Wright on the 6.55 Percent Drop in Ag Value

The Fresno County agriculture value for the 2015 fiscal year was calculated at $6.6 billion. It was down 6.55 percent from 2014, when Fresno County had a record year of $7.0 billion in agriculture value. The report included nearly 400 commodities; 62 of which had a value in excess of $1 million.

The report represents the resiliency and hard work of farmers and farm workers, as well as those allied in the industry.

In the video above, Les Wright, the Fresno County Ag Commissioner, spoke about the implications of the drop.

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Fresno County 2014 Crop Report May Fall Further than 2013

Fresno Ag Commissioner Les Wright Concerned About Regaining #1 County Status

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Associate Editor

Recently, California Ag Today spoke with Les Wright, Ag Commissioner of Fresno County on how that county is traditionally the highest rated in statewide, and nationwide, in agricultural output of many specialty crops, but water restrictions have bumped the county down a few rungs.

“Fresno County, since 1954, has been the number one agriculture producing county in the world, with two exceptions. The most recent exception was in 2013, documented in our last crop report, when the water shortage was a West Side-only issue,” said Wright.

That year, the East Side received a nearly 50 percent allotment from the Friant Water Authority of the federal Central Valley Project. In 2014 there was a zero allocation for both an East-side and a West-side issue.”

“I’m not sure how 2014 will wash out, but other dynamics are also playing into it. Nut crops are very valuable, and they have high yields, and our Southern neighbors are planting a lot of nuts.”

But Wright said that things are different in surrounding counties. “They don’t have the diversity that Fresno County has. I’m very optimistic that once we get our water allotments back, we’ll be number one again. But until that occurs, I’m not sure where we are going to end up.”

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Kern County Ag Ranks Second in State, Fresno Drops to Third

Ruben J. Arroyo, Kern County Agricultural Commissioner reported the 2013 gross value of all agricultural commodities produced in the county was $6,769,855,590, according to the 2013 Kern County Agricultural Crop Report, representing an increase (6%) from the revised 2012 crop value ($6,352,061,100). Thus, Kern County ag ranks second in state, with Tulare ahead, and Fresno behind.

Kern County’s top five commodities for 2013 were Grapes, Almonds, Milk, Citrus and Cattle & Calves, which make up more than $4.6 Billion (68%) of the Total Value; with the top twenty commodities making up more than 94% of the Total Value. The 2013 Kern County Crop Report can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards website: www.kernag.com

Tulare County reported gross annual production in 2013 at $7.8 Billion, Fresno County, $6.4 Billion, and Monterey County, $4.38 Billion.

As predicted by many, including CaliforniaAgToday on July 15, 2014, Fresno County, long-time top ag county in the state—and in the nation—now ranks third in the state and has regressed in ag growth since 2011.

Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner, attributes much of the decrease to the water shortage, particularly exacerbated by a large part of the West Side being dependent on both state and federal surface water deliveries that have been curtailed by pumping restrictions due to the Endangered Species Act.

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Fresno County Crop Value Drops to $6.43 Billion

For the first time in history, Fresno County has two $1 billion crops, and for the first time in 11 years, grapes are not the #1 crop. Now almonds are the top crop produced in Fresno County with a value of $1.1 billion, with grapes coming in second at $1.03 billion. However, despite these highlights, Fresno County crop value in 2013  was $6.436 billion in gross production—a decrease of 2.28 percent of 2012.

Fresno Ag Commissioner Les Wright
Fresno Ag Commissioner Les Wright

As it stands now, Fresno County loses it’s #1 position as top agricultural county in the nation, dropping behind Tulare County, which recently announced a $7.8 billion 2013 crop year. It could get worse when Kern County releases their report in August.

“Much of the decrease can be attributed to the shortage of water,” said Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner. “The impacts of drought began to show on our 2012 crop report with decrease of 2.29 percent from 2011. Producers are feeling the affects of the water shortage more in 2014 than in the previous two yeas.”

Water shortages in Fresno County with a large part of the West Side dependent on both state and federal surface water deliveries have meant the annual crop report’s gross value of production has dropped three years in a row.

Details of the 2013 report include an increase of fresh vegetable production in 2013 by 3.8 percent in value led by garlic and fresh market tomatoes, while livestock and poultry decreased in value by more than 16 percent.

Field crops, representing barley, wheat, corn silage, cotton an alfalfa declined nearly 42 percent, while fruit and nut crops increased more than 8 percent.

Wright noted that Fresno County growers exported nearly 26,000 shipments to 99 different countries. “This tells us that we are still feeding the world,” said Wright.

“Once we get water back, we are going to see our ag economy rebound,” said Wright. “Just give the farmers water and they will do the rest.”

 

 

 

 

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TODAY’S MEETING IN FRESNO ADDRESSES ACP

Fresno County on Alert for ACP

 
Assemblyman Jim Patterson

Assemblyman Jim Patterson hosted the Citrus Industry Town Hall this morning at the Fresno County Farm Bureau office to discuss the current state of the Asian Citrus Psyllid presence in California, the quarantine situation, how Fresno County is preparing for the possible migration of ACP into the county, and how agencies, growers, and the state and federal governments are cooperating to control its spread in California.

Over forty people attended the meeting, including growers, PCAs, local government and industry leaders, researchers, and media.

Fresno County is the fourth largest citrus-producing county in California, having dropped in status due to freeze-damaged mandarin acreage last year, according to Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner.
Les Wright
“ACP spread is one of the most serious problems facing valley citrus growers especially those in the south valley,” said Wright.
 
To date, all contiguous counties in southern California are under CDFA Quarantine, as well the Porterville area of Tulare County, to prevent movement of ACP-ridden leaves and plant debris and unsanitary ag equipment into non-infested regions of the state and to bide time for agency mobilization and industry research to catch up. The effort also aims to prevent ACP from finding HLB-infected trees and spreading the incurable disease.
 
Though presently under quarantine, the effort in southern California to stop the spread of ACP, it was emphasized, was NOT a failure; rather, it bought precious time for other regions to prepare, and while many treatments did not work, other regions are learning from their attempts.
 
Creative Solutions
 
Dr. Beth Grafton-Cardwell

Dr. Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC IPM Specialist and Research Entomologist, recently studied ACP found in Texas and Florida and reported that local agencies here are following Florida’s lead in organizing grower groups and local neighbors to treat their trees simultaneously.

She said that researchers are looking for natural processes, among others, to control ACP populations.
 
Victoria Hornbaker, CDFA, Program Coordinator, gave the example of Dr. Mark Hoddle, Extension Specialist and Director of the Center for Invasive Species Research at UC Riverside, who is working towards the massive release of Tamarixia radiata wasps, a natural predator of ACP, found in Pakistan. In studies of small releases of T. radiata, the wasps were found outside the areas where they were released—a good indication of their hardiness and potential effectiveness against ACP.

Victoria Hornbaker

While there is no cure for HLB thus far, researchers are looking at altering the ACP so it cannot pick up HLB disease, inserting a gene so it cannot carry HLB, and creating disease-resistant plants.

Organic insecticides against ACP are short-lived, so they must be applied more frequently than their conventional counterparts. Thus, organic farmers must be more aggressive in their treatments.
 
UC Davis is studying new efficacious organic products.
 
If an organic farm were in an eradication zone, the grower would be required to use conventional products, losing organic status for one year. Without compliance, the property would be abated.
 
It is recommended that when a grower sprays for a different pest, they should choose a product that also works on ACP.
 
Eradication and management strategies differ according to season.
 
Product spraying frequency and product choice are delicate decisions so as not to cause resistance in ACP.
 
Expert dog sniffers can detect the presence of ACP, and have detected infested shipments that were subsequently destroyed. California is vigilant at all points of entry including airports, border traffic, and ports. Not all counties have expert canines; however, Fresno has one such specialist. The USDA also provides dogs, one of which works in Fresno.
 
Take Action Now
 
Start sampling now.
 
Do not rely on (color-saturated) yellow-sticky traps for detection. Remember that psyllids are attracted to citrus trees, which have both color and scent.
ACP likes an orchard’s edges, so test for their presence around a field’s perimeter, as well as down the center for good measure.
 
Go to the following websites for information, quarantine maps, crop protection cost-effectiveness:
·       CDFAWebsite
In the event a homeowner or grower suspects ACP on their property, take the bug, if possible, put it in alcohol, and contact the Fresno County Farm Bureau; Sylvie Robillard, Fresno County Grower Liaison; the CDFA Hotline, 1-800-481-1899 or your local Ag commissioner (if outside Fresno County).
 
Joel Nelson
Joel Nelson, California Citrus Mutual, President, commented, “If it weren’t serious, it would be exciting” due to the talent of the people involved in the fight to suppress the ACP and thereby avoid HLB disaster in the state. With southern California producing $750,000 and the Central Valley producing $1.5 billion in citrus, California is the largest citrus-producing state in the country, providing 85% of the country’s fresh citrus.
 
Stopping the spread of ACP and eradicating Huanglongbing (HLB) is among the top five priorities of the USDA. The federal government has contributed $10 million to the California program toward that end.
 
A coalition of groups is conducting a public relations campaign starting in southern California that includes distribution of bookmarks and brochures (in several languages) that have a little magnifying glass inside to detect ACP; enlisting legislators and box stores, among others, to help spread information; and launching a PSA next week featuring Citrus Grower Kevin Severns speaking about this crucial situation.There are 6 versions of the PSA on CCM’s YouTube Channel.
 
Nelson emphasized that every step this coalition in California takes is globally unprecedented. And the government is flexible and ready to adopt new strategies; using this effort in California as a model for other programs planned to eradicate foreign invading pests.
 
Assemblyman Jim Patterson concluded by acknowledging, “Agriculture is more than a livelihood; it‘s a life.”