The San Luis Obispo County Department of Agriculture/Weights and Measures has announced the release of annual production statistics for the local agricultural industry for 2009. Statistics can be found on the department’s Web site at www.slocounty.ca.gov/agcomm.
Total crop values for 2009 are estimated at a gross value of $623,095,000, compared to $602,922,000 for 2008. This increase is an improvement of approximately 3 percent, according to Bob Lilley, County Agricultural Commissioner.
“Many growers continued to feel the negative effects of the four-year drought in 2009. However, other than the lack of rainfall, the overall mild winter and summer temperatures provided ideal growing conditions for some of the county’s crops,” Lilley said.
Wine grapes continue to hold the top position in overall value. Favorable weather conditions contributed to a 42-percent increase in yields over 2008 tonnage totals. The prices for San Luis Obispo County’s grapes declined slightly; however, higher yields created a 34-percent overall increase in value compared to 2008. Wine grape values were 27 percent of the combined value of the county’s entire agricultural industry.
The strawberry industry expanded by 370 acres to 1,893 total acres, a 24-percent increase over 2008.
Despite lower prices compared to 2008 levels, the local industry was valued at $73,198,000, an increase of approximately 12 percent over 2008.
Coastal avocado and Valencia orange trees suffered fruit loss due to one week of unusually high temperatures in June, 2009, resulting in significantly lower yields, compared to 2008. Lemon yields were high, but reduced consumer demand caused prices to fall.
The number of harvested acres of vegetable crops decreased overall, and some of the historically vegetable acreage was converted to strawberry fields. Carrot acreage decreased, and fields were fallow during 2009. Bell peppers and cabbage yields were increased over 2008 levels, and pricing was strong.
Overall, fewer acres were planted into vegetables due to changes in market demand and continuing drought conditions, resulting in a 6-percent decrease in overall value.
The local cattle industry rebounded slightly in 2009, due to fairly decent market prices. Herds were reduced in size, resulting in approximately 1,000 fewer cattle going to market, due to limited grassland forage as a result of four consecutive years of below-average rainfall. Total production for 2009 was valued at $51,992,000, compared to $50,050,000 in 2008, an increase of 4 percent.
An increase of approximately 1,000 lambs over 2009 herd levels contributed to the overall 3 percent increased in value of the animal category, compared to 2008.
The downturned economy and lack of new housing construction hit the local nursery industry hard in 2009. The total value for the nursery industry, consisting of indoor and outdoor ornamental plants, cut flowers and vegetable transplants, fell overall in 2009 by 8 percent, compared to a 5-percent decrease in 2008.
The cut flower, indoor decorative and ornamental plant growers suffered the largest losses in this category caused by reduced consumer spending, while the demand from throughout the state for locally grown vegetable transplants held steady.
The high demand in 2008 for San Luis Obispo County-grown alfalfa and grain hay from California’s Central Valley dairies disappeared in 2009 as Central Valley dairy herds were reduced.
Local growers planted normal acreage amounts but harvested lower yields due to continued drought conditions, and they received far lower prices compared to 2008. Overall, the value of field crops was 20 percent below 2008 levels.
The Crop Report is produced annually to provide current and historical production and value statistics of the local agricultural industry. Annual Crop Reports from 1968 through 2009 can be viewed at www.slocounty.ca.gov/agcomm.
For more information about the Annual Crop Report, contact Bob Lilley or Lynda Auchinachie at (805) 781-5910. To request a hard copy when the printed copies are available in June, contact the Agriculture Commissioner’s office in San Luis Obispo by calling (805) 781-5910.