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Agriculture sees a decline in value due to pandemic, report finds
Non-bearing almond acres — new plantings going back to 2020 but not yet bearing almonds — dropped to 294,000 acres from 353,000 acres in 2021 (Journal file photo).

Stanislaus County agriculture had to deal with the ramifications of the pandemic last year and it was reflected in the annual agricultural report for 2020. The county experienced a general slowdown in the farming economy.

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors were presented with the Agricultural Report for 2020 on Tuesday, which showed that the value of agricultural commodities produced here last year decreased three percent from 2019 to 2020, going from $3,598,404,000 to $3,476,093,000. According to Agriculture Commission Kamaljit Bagri, this past year brought unprecedent challenges to the agriculture industry.

“This year’s report reflects a historic pandemic year that changed markets suddenly and dramatically and created numerous challenges along the entire production chain. As lockdown orders went into effect, consumers changed eating habits as schools and restaurants closed,” she said. “Locally, after emerging from a dry winter, the summer dragged into a historic fire season that burned significant rangeland on the westside of the county in the 47-day SCU Lightning Complex fire.  Additionally, we experienced a dry fall that saw little rain into mid-December.”

2020 top crops

The news wasn’t all bad, however.

“A few bright spots emerged despite these factors, such as the increase in value of livestock products including eggs and dairy, and increases in yield and value of freestone peaches, cherries and sweet potatoes,” the report stated.

Almonds remained the No. 1 crop in Stanislaus County in 2020, according to the report, with a value of $1,123,961,000 which was a $105 million decrease from 2019. Almonds make up a smaller percentage than the county’s total commodity value than it did last year. In 2019, almonds represented 34 percent of the county’s total commodity value; in 2020, almonds accounted for 32 percent.

The second-highest valued commodity in 2020 was milk and it contributes even more value than it did in 2018. It was an increase in value by $128 million compared to last year.  Milk accounts for 21 percent of the county’s total commodity value, while it accounted for 17 percent last year.

Chickens came in at No. 3 as they did last year and were valued at $342,099,000 — a decrease of over $23 million. The fourth-ranked commodity in 2020 were cattle and calves, which account for six percent of total commodity value which was the same as 2019. This commodity saw an increase of $3 million from last year.

Nursery, vines, and fruit and nut trees made the top 10 list at No. 5, followed by silage and walnuts at sixth and seventh. The three commodities combined account for 11 percent of the county’s total commodity value. All three experienced a loss compared to 2019 with silage being the most significant at $34 million.

Unlike almond production, No. 8 on the list — almond pollution — saw in increase compared to last year. Pollination was valued at $$88,800,000 in 2020, increasing by $5 million, and represented three percent of the total commodity value.

Turkeys decreased by $6 million in 2020 but still came in at No. 9 on the list, while tomatoes replaced melons at No. 10 and entered the top 10 with a total value of $37,991,000.

As a whole, the top 10 commodities in Stanislaus County represent 86 percent of the county’s total production value. When combined with the other 220 commodities produced in Stanislaus County, the area’s agricultural production ranks higher than 20 states.

Stanislaus County also issued 4,643 export certificates to 99 countries in 2020, which are issued to certify that the commodity meets the plant cleanliness requirements of the importing country. The top 10 countries that Stanislaus County exported commodities to in 2020 were Korea (949 certificates), Japan (883), India (789), Turkey (626), Germany (598), United Arab Emirates (586), China (551), Spain (547), Vietnam (455) and the Italy (264).

Of those certificates, 60 percent were for almonds, 25 percent for walnuts, 10 percent for seed, one percent for fruit, one percent for spices and all other combined commodities accounted for the remaining three percent.

All these products were grown on the 3,621 farms in reported in Stanislaus County in 2020. Of those, 94 percent were family farms and 64 percent were orchard farms. They are made up of 722,546 acres with an average of 200 acres per farm. The largest farm in Stanislaus County is 850 acres, and the smallest is .02 acres. The average age of a Stanislaus County farmer is 59.6.