The gross value of Yolo County’s multifaceted agriculture industry is at an all-time high, according to the 2011 Yolo County Agricultural Report.
The report, which was released last month to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, indexed a total valuation of $549.2 million — an increase of 23.8 percent from 2010. It detailed acreage, production and gross values of all the agricultural commodities produced locally.
Yolo County Agricultural Commissioner John Young said these numbers are significant in a time of recession, and for a county that relies on thriving farmland. Agriculture is estimated to contribute more than $1.5 billion to the local economy.
“It’s the seed companies, it’s the tractor suppliers, it’s the fertilizer dealers,” Young said. “It’s everything that goes along with that. … As we see that gross agricultural value go up, that’s a good thing, because it means our economy is recovering.”
The boom in the agricultural values also can be attributed to a higher price per unit for commodities. Having to supply for an ever-increasing demand makes food cost hikes inevitable, Young explained.
“As we keep growing the world’s population, there’s only so much land that can produce food,” Young said. “Because of that, food prices are going to continue to go up.”
Processing tomatoes, which remains the prime Yolo County commodity, had prices rise by approximately $2 per ton. This year’s higher prices, combined with a 21.7 percent increase in acreage, brought the crop’s gross value to $106.8 million, which is up from $87.9 million the year prior.
Rice, wine grapes, hay and walnuts trail tomatoes on Yolo County’s most valuable produce list. Walnuts were No. 6 in last year’s report, and have since swapped places with organic food products to make it into the top five.
The change reflects a 28.7 percent price increase for the commodity from 2011, as well as further cultivation of walnut orchard acreage since that time.
“We’re seeing a transition to what we call perennial cropping,” Young said. “We’ve had a lot of walnuts planted. … They are slowly starting to get into the crop report values because those crops are now starting to produce nuts, so you’ll see that shift.”
The gross values of crops on the annual report, however, do not reflect actual income for local farmers.
Chuck Dudley, president of the Yolo County Farm Bueau, said the expenses for farming operations have grown just as steadily as the crop values.
“Without the rise in values, many farmers would be running in the red,” Dudley said. “With the fact that there are increases in input costs, individuals have the chance to at least stay where they are. Maybe a little better off, maybe a little worse off.”
Being a grower or rancher, Dudley added, has become progressively difficult as fuel prices skyrocket. He also expressed concern about more expenses being levied on farmers through labor regulations.
But he is not letting the worrisome state of local agricultural economics take away from what is a clear victory for Yolo County.
“Overall, the fact that values are up is very good news for the county and the farming community in general,” Dudley said. “The trend will need to continue as costs continue to rise — in order to maintain the viability of agriculture.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052.