Agriculture is the lifeblood of Tulare County. The industry is largest private employer in the valley, accounting for nearly a quarter of all jobs. At the Board of Supervisor’s meeting on Tuesday, July 8 Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner, Marilyn Kinoshita presented the 2013 Tulare County Annual Crop and Livestock Report. During Kinoshita’s presentation it was announced that for the third year in a row Tulare County saw the highest gross value ever reported.
Kinoshita reported that currently (as of press time) Tulare County is leading the nation in agricultural production and has seen a 25.7% increase from 2012.
The Annual Crop and Livestock Report summarizes the acreage, production and value of Tulare County’s agricultural commodities. During her presentation Kinoshita gave board members insight into the phenomenal year Tulare County agriculture production had.
Permanent Planting Acreage
Permanent Planting Acreage encompasses both citrus, deciduous and grape planting. It was reported that nearly all permanent planting crops are gaining acreage.
The report found that many of these bearing acres may still be young and not producing nearly as much as mature plantings are. In 2013 there was a highly visible shift around Tulare County from field crops to permanent plantings. Kinoshita said that 40,000 new trees were planted throughout Tulare County in 2013.
Fruit and nut crops saw a 46% increase from 2012. Valencia oranges, kiwifruit, pistachio nuts, and walnuts saw the highest increases this year. Kinoshita gave an explanation for these findings, “We are seeing an increase in pistachio nuts due to the alkaline in Tulare Counties soil”, She went on to explain that kiwis saw a 90% increase due to the off year the crop had in 2012. The increase in value can be attributed to the increase in harvested acreage as well as the higher prices in per unit value.
Citrus such as tangerines, mandarins, and tangelos saw a significant decrease. This year tangerine value totaled $125,580,000 in comparison to 2012 production which totaled $140,279,000. Kinoshita attributed the decline to an unforeseen freeze that hit the Central Valley in early December of 2013.
Fruits such as peaches and pomegranates also saw a decrease due to the early freeze. Total production value of fruit and nut crops was $4,053,422,000 which was a $1,218,016,000 increase from 2012.
Findings from the Tulare County Annual Crop Report saw a 6.5% decrease from 2012 to 2013 in field crops. The reported stated that, “The 6.5% decrease was mainly due to the shift in acreage to small grain silage, which has a lower per unit value than other crops”. The report went on to read, “The majority of crops that experienced the decrease in acreage also had an increase in value per unit”. Small grain silage was the only field crop to see an increase and experienced an increased value of $29,387,000. Total production value of field crops was $715,735,000 which was a $50,105,000 decrease from 2012.
Vegetable crops and apiary products
Orange honey production was highlighted during the commissioner’s presentation. There were an extra three million pounds of orange honey produced in 2013. Apiary products saw a 92.3% increase. According to the report the cause for the increase was a combination of production and higher prices, “While pounds of production and number of colonies were the main cause for this large jump, an increase in honey prices also contributed”. Apiary production value totaled $75,381,000. Vegetable crops also saw an increase. The total amount of harvested acreage of vegetable crops rose by 397 acres, all per unit prices also showed an increase. These variables lead to the increased value of $6,058,000 or 30.8% from 2012.
Livestock and poultry
Tulare County continues to be the top dairy producer in the nation and milk remains the at the top of the list totaling over 2 million dollars in sales. Livestock and poultry products had an increase of 15.3%.
A surprising product represented a significant boost in revenue for livestock and poultry products. Manure sales increased three fold and showed an increase in sales of 165,000 tons from 2012.
Reports stated that, “The value for ‘organic’ manure is much higher than it was in 2012”, Kinoshita did not disclose which type of manure was the cause for the spike in revenue. Market milk, which according to the agricultural commissioner is the most common utilization for milk in Tulare County, had an increase of 15% or $270,253,000 even though the production showed a decreased. Livestock and poultry products totaled $2,095,547,000.
Due to drier condition, with less feed available and higher prices for rangeland, cattle and calves were the only group to show an increase in the number of head marketed.
Kinoshita stated that the looming drought played a major role in the amount of cattle and calves that were sold, “because of the drought and dry conditions cattle ranchers didn’t have pastures to put cattle on”. Even with dry conditions livestock and poultry experienced a 15.8% increase from 2012.
Overall agricultural sales in Tulare County have continued to increase over the last three years. The total crop value in 2013 was 7.8 billion dollars.
Despite the optimism board members displayed the question on everyone’s mind was, how long can Tulare Country continue this upward trend with another drought year in the forecast?
During the Q & A portion of the commissioner’s presentation, Kinoshita stated, “If we have another year without rain, its going to be very sad”, she went on to say, “It takes water storage to maintain crops and livestock and without water it will be tough to sustain the county’s agriculture in the coming year”.
To obtain a full copy of the 2013 Tulare County Crop and Livestock visit agcomm.co.tulare.ca.us.