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USDA Farm Forecast predicts strong 2011
farm pic
Almonds, the largest crop produced in the county, exported product goes to more than 90 different countries. - photo by Journal file photo

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicted the nation’s net farm income will increase by about 20 percent in 2011.

“I am heartened that net farm income is projected to increase about 20 percent, or almost $16 billion, from the previous forecast. That’s the second highest figure since the mid-1970s or the second highest inflation-adjusted value for net farm income recorded in the past 35 years,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The USDA’s Farm Financial Forecast was released last Monday, and indicates the record increase is due to record or near record prices for commodities like corn, wheat and soybeans being exported.

For Stanislaus County farmers the report is encouraging. Almonds, the largest crop produced in the county, exported product goes to more than 90 different countries.

Tom Orvis, the governmental affairs director for the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, praised local crop diversity and increases in exports. 

“We’ve got a lot of crops that go all over the world. Walnuts, almonds, cherries, apricots, milk, who really knows where it’s all going. We’ve got rice in Riverbank, grain corn, wine and wheat.”

While the USDA report is good news for grain and fiber farmers, other agricultural areas face challenges in the future. Increasing prices for feed, fertilizer and fuel could still spell trouble for livestock and dairy farmers in the local area.

Economically, the increase in exports could also be an indication of a weaker dollar.

“As the dollar gets weaker, exports go up because foreign customers can pay for goods. It’s one of the economic indicators,” explained Orvis.

“The Obama administration has focused on helping farmers and rural small businesses find profitability in the marketplace and success in the global economy, the report is an indication that effort is succeeding,” said Vilsack.

Locally, increased farm profits could potentially lead to more jobs, improving the unemployment rate and economy.  Almonds shipments from North America increased to a record 489 million pounds in 2009-2010, up from 233 million pounds in 2000 and almonds are by far the most valuable exported specialty crop in the United States.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail, or call 634-9141 ext, 2015.