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Merced County ag industry reports $240M rise in crop values. Here are the top commodities

·3 min read

The Merced County Farm Bureau in 2020 reported an increase of more than $240 million gross production value in crops and livestock over the prior year, according to a report released last month.

The Merced County Department of Agriculture’s report is released annually in accordance with state law, summarizing the acreage, production and total gross value of the region’s commodities.

The total value of agricultural commodities, according to the report, is more than $3.4 billion, up 7% from the 2019 report.

Among the most valuable commodities, milk remained the top revenue producer at more than $1 billion. The county’s milk market rose in value by 15% from the 2019 total.

“To explain the variation in prices, it could be production,” said Dave Robinson, Merced County’s agriculture commissioner.

“Let’s say there’s high production of a commodity that drives the price down because there’s a lot of it to sell. Sometimes if there’s lower production, the price of the commodity goes up because there’s a short supply of that.”

Robinson said the years-long drought is a concern. “We have been in a drought for a few years and we continue to be in a drought,” Robinson said.

“One of the things I’m seeing is reduced acreage in our field crops, and that’s kind of what we expect to a certain extent, is that field crops are planted annually, and if we have a limited amount of water, we may use that water on another commodity or we may not have that availability of water at all.”

Despite some acreage reductions, Robinson said he doesn’t see that affecting the amount of crops produced. He said that acreage of some crops, like almonds, will remain stable.

“Some things, like sweet potatoes and almonds, some higher-value crops, we’ll probably see them stay fairly consistent,” he added.

This year, almonds were valued at $470 million, chickens at $318 million, cattle and calves at $262 million, tomatoes at $145 million, corn at $104 million and sweet potatoes at $269 million, among other types of commodities.

“I’m happy we remain in agriculture and we’re able to farm here,” said Breanne Vandenberg, executive director of the farm bureau.

Notably, despite milk being the top agricultural products in Merced County for 2020, cattle and calves are down 13% since 2019.

The decline in value puts the cattle and calves sector of the market down to the fifth-most valuable agricultural commodity in the county.

Among fruit and nut crops, the most lucrative, in order from most to least valuable, were almonds, wine grapes, miscellaneous fruits and nuts, Clingstone peaches, Freestone peaches, pistachios, dried plums and English walnuts, according to the farm bureau report.

The top countries Merced County exported to in 2020 were India, Spain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Germany, China, United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

The most exported items were almonds, blackberries, black walnut burls, celery, cherry cuttings, chicory, cottonwood logs, fennel, figs, nectarines, onion seeds, onions, peach cuttings, pistachios, plum cuttings, dried prunes, radicchio, raspberries, rice, cranberries, strawberries, sweet potatoes, walnuts and walnut burls and logs.

The news came around the same time as the Fresno County Farm Bureau’s report, which reported an increase of 2.86%, bringing the value of Fresno County crops to more than $7.98 billion, according to The Fresno Bee.

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