Tulare County Ag is Down But Strong

Tulare County Annual Crop Report is Down But Still Strong

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

The numbers are in for the 2015 Tulare County Annual Crop and Livestock Report.  Marilyn Kinoshita, Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer of Tulare County, reported, “We had an overall value of $6.9 billion, compared to last year, which was more than $8 billion,” which means the County led the nation in total crop value and dairy production, despite a decrease of nearly 14% in one year.

Tulare County’s top ten crops [crop value] in 2015 were:

  1. Milk
  2. Cattle & Calves
  3. Oranges- Navels & Valencias
  4. Grapes
  5. Almonds Meats & Hulls
  6. Tangerines – Fresh
  7. Corn – Grain & Silage
  8. Silage – Small Grain
  9. Pistachio Nuts
  10. Walnuts

Kinoshita explained, “Dairy is our number one industry here. Our milk production was off a little bit. We have fewer dairies in business now because of the low milk prices. Anytime your fresh market milk is off, that’s going to affect our overall value. A good 2/3 of that billion-dollar decrease came from the dairy industry. The price was low the entire year, as opposed to the year before.”

Marilyn Kinoshita, agricultural commissioner, Tulare County
Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County Ag Commissioner

 

Thus far, the reported 2015 county crop reports in the Central Valley are down this year. “Fresno County, for instance, was down 6.5% off its record $7 billion in 2014,” Kinoshita said.

 

“It has a lot to do with low water deliveries in Fresno and Tulare Counties,” she continued. “The smaller the water deliveries, the more efficient those growers have to be with that water. Anytime you’re pumping water out of the ground, it’s terribly expensive,” she noted.

 

“Some of our growers have had to decide, ‘All right, I’ve got this much water; I’m going to keep those blocks alive and I’m going to push an older block that isn’t producing as well.’ The returns aren’t as good as some of the newer plantings,” said Kinoshita.

 

Despite all of that, Kinoshita said agriculture does sit at the head of the table in Tulare County. “Yes, and we need a successful Ag industry to thrive here,” she said.

 

To view a video of the interview, click HERE.

 

Tricia Stever Blattler, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, noted the crop report demonstrates the strength of the agricultural industry. “I think every year when this crop report comes out, it is always a testament to the resiliency of this industry. This industry takes hard knocks, gets knocked down, then steps right back up to the plate and keeps swinging,” Blattler said. “The agricultural sector has a lot of outside challenges that impact the number that we see reported every year.”

 

Tricia Stever Blattler
Tricia Stever Blattler, executive director , Tulare County Farm Bureau

Blattler acknowledged the crop value numbers do not reflect net revenue for growers. “It’s always really important for our listeners to know that the crop value is a gross revenue number. When our Ag Commissioner steps to the microphone and speaks to our Board of Supervisors about this report each year, she’s reflecting values that are attributed to all of the gross revenue, and it’s not only the field value,” Blattler said.

 

“That gross number reported each year also represents our packing houses, our milk processing facilities—the creameries, the butter plants—the packing shedsall those other parts of our industry that [create] value in our industry,” said Blattler.

 

Blattler noted up or down, it’s all about the resiliency of farmers. “The industry has its years that are really blockbuster and it has its years when it falls back and we see a reduction acreage. We see reductions in surface water deliveries. The drought is still certainly playing a significant role in the numbers we’re seeing,” she explained.

 

With regard to surface water, Tulare County is in a bit of a unique position. “As an Eastside county, some of our water deliveries are not as subject to the situation that the Westside is in. In the same sense, we have some significant cutbacks that have been attributed to the San Joaquin River’s restoration and the biological opinions in the Delta—all have had an impact on the Central San Joaquin Valley [water] deliveries regardless of whether you’re Eastside or Westside.

 

“Also, as the exchange contractors either take greater deliveries of water or give up water, that also impacts the amount available to Eastside growers here in Tulare County,” she said.

 

In summary, 2015 Tulare Crop Report covers more than 120 different commodities, 45 of which have a gross value in excess of $1 million. Although individual commodities may experience difficulties from year to year, Tulare County continues to produce high quality crops that provide food and fiber to more than 90 countries worldwide.


Featured photo: Tulare County 2015 Crop Report

Friant Farmers Insist Lawmakers Hammer Out Water Solution

The passage and letter below from the Lower Tule and Pixley Irrigation Districts was released yesterday by Families Protecting the Valley. These districts are Friant contractors and key members of the Friant Water Authority. They are recommending a revision of the San Joaquin River Restoration program to accomplish a ‘live river’ but not decimate the farms and communities of the East Side that have relied on this surface water for decades.

This is a well written and courageous letter, and the directors listed on the correspondence and General Manager, Mr. Dan Vink, deserve praise. We implore the other Friant Water Authority contractors to quickly send a similar letter reflecting the same views, and vote to have the Friant Water Authority to do the same. This issue will be decided in two weeks after the federal legislators return from their recess.

It is rare when we in the Central Valley have an opportunity to be a part of the discussion especially when something positive is being discussed concerning our water use.

In addition to Friant contactors, other organizations (e.g., farm bureaus) that are involved in agriculture or are dependent on this water (e.g., cities, counties, chamber of commerce, etc.) need to also send in letters of support.

Friant Water Authority

Several of our directors have been involved in this effort, and it is a long standing recommendation of FPV to do exactly what is recommended.

 

The Honorable Senator Dianne Feinstein

United States Senate

331 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Congressman David Valadao

Washington, D.C. Office

1004 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

Re:  Support for S. 2198 and HR 3964

 

Dear Senator Feinstein and Congressman Valadao,

The Boards of Directors of the Lower Tule River and Pixley Irrigation District wholeheardedly support S.2198(California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014) and HR3964(Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act). Specific to S.2198, we urge passage by the Senate immediately so these bills can be discussed in a joint process with Senate and House representatives.

More important than any of the words in these bills, we support, and insist you and your colleagues begin the process of rolling up your sleeves and working together to hammer out a balanced solution on California water issues. We are in a serious crisis and the partisan bickering, finger pointing blame game back home is doing nothing to solve the problems. It is nonsense and serves no purpose other than to divide the good people of the Valley. We urge you to rise above the petty noise and hammer out a solution. The water supply reductions we are facing this year are having devastating consequences made worse daily by the inaction of the agencies and Congress to find a balanced approach to distributing water throughout California.

We must have a reasonable set of export rules for the Delta. Our districts know the importance of this now more than ever. It is the failure to capture flows in the Delta that is directly causing a zero projected allocation for the Friant Division, on which we rely. The fish agencies and the courts have not been able to establish viable rules in the Delta, and the result is unmitigated disaster for agriculture in California. We expect the eventual drought bill to address this crucial issue in a real way in order to get water to California farms and stop the damage caused by wasteful use of water on fish programs that do not actually serve fish.

HR 2964 calls for a repeal of the San Joaquin River Settlement Act. We cannot unwind the clock and “do away with the Settlement” and anyone who advocates that position never completely understood the settlement issues in the first place. We agree with both of you when you have publicly said that Restoration has been difficult and expensive to implement and that it is time to reassess the plan(See, for example,Fresno Bee, March 8, 2014). The idea of restoring salmon to the San Joaquin in the timeline envisioned at the outset, and with the money it was projected to cost, was always a long shot. We all knew that Restoration was going to be an evolving plan – it is time for it to evolve.

We want to see a viable San Joaquin River for fish, farming and families. If we are going to get there, it is going to take all the parties coming to the table and dealing rationally with the facts on the ground. We welcome that opportunity and insist it is needed to protect the investment in time and money we have all made to date. Repeal is not an option, but reassessment is a requirement. If we are going to have a sustainable fishery program on the San Joaquin River and a vibrant farming economy in the Valley, we must begin the process.

Both of you have shown a willingness in the past to lead on this issue, and that is why we want to support both of your bills, despite having differences with some of their individual terms. We are confident the two of you working together will become a dynamic combination for us to follow once again. The pending release of Reclamation’s revised implementation plan for San Joaquin River Restoration should provide the framework for the discussion.

The impacts facing our collective constituents require we all work together to get legislation passed and changes made. Failure is not an option. Our Districts look forward to working with you and your colleagues to find common sense solutions to serve the interests of all Californians.

Thank You,

Gary Fernandes, 
President, Lower Tule River Irrigation District

Frank Junio, 
President, 
Pixley Irrigation District

cc:  Senator Barbara Boxer,
 Congressman Devin Nunes
, Congressman Jim Costa, 
Congressman Tom McClintock, 
Congressman Doug LaMalfa
, Congressman Jared Huffman, 
Friant Water Authority, 
Westlands Water District
, San Luis and Delta Mendota Water Users Authority
,  Exchange Contractors

Lower Tule Board
:  Gary Fernandes, President; 
John Roeloffs, Vice President
; Jim Costa, Director
; Tom Barcellos, Director
; Alex Garcia, Director

Pixley Board
:  Frank Junio, President; 
Russell Schott, Vice President; 
Bill DeGroot, Director
; Randall Parreira, Director;  Neal Westbrook, Director; Daniel G. Vink, General Manager; 
Eric Limas, Business Manager
; Beth Grote-Lewis, Assessor; 
Alex Peltzer, Legal Counsel