Last year was a record one for San Benito County agriculture, with more than $330 million in gross sales, besting 2012’s previous record by 11 percent — or nearly $32 million, according to the 2013 Annual Crop report made public on Tuesday. Using an economic multiplier effect of 1.6, based on a a Monterey County study, San Benito County Agriculture Commissioner Ronald Ross said local agriculture contributed $528 million to the state’s economy.

“It was a very good year across the board for vegetable production,” Ross said in the report, which was presented to the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. The largest gains were in the production of spinach, head lettuce and onions, along with a gain in their respective unit prices. Despite the ongoing drought, income from cattle also increased due to higher prices paid to ranchers.

Ross said cherries, apricots, walnuts, grapes and raspberries all fared well in 2013, bolstered by good weather. The annual report referenced county agriculture a half-century ago for comparison’s sake.

“Fifty years ago, orchard crops were the main player,” Ross said after the meeting. “Agriculture is dynamic. Now it’s vegetable crops. In 1963 the total gross for the whole county was $24 million, which is $156 million in today’s dollars. Ag income has outpaced the Consumer Price Index by more than 2-to-1.”

Information on export markets was also included in the ag report, which noted that San Benito County agriculture biologists inspected and certified 1,466 agricultural commodity shipments to 55 countries in 2013. The top export countries were Mexico and Canada, with 398 and 357 shipments, respectively. Organic farming continues to be an increasing player in local agriculture, with 76 certified, registered growers raising popular crops such as spring mix (4,518 acres at a value of $40.7 million) and miscellaneous vegetables (3,366 acres valued at nearly $31 million).

Though many counties are struggling to get an adequate supply of water for agriculture, local growers had two sources from which to choose — the San Felipe Project, which provides water from the Central Valley Project, and groundwater. 

“Groundwater hasn’t been touched that much,” Ross said. “For the most part, water supplies weren’t too bad.” However, he noted, continued restrictions on water deliveries from the CVP are forcing more growers to rely on groundwater locally.

Ross said he encouraged county supervisors to minimize regulatory impacts on agriculture and keep favorable business conditions, such as not developing housing projects in agriculturally productive land.

Referencing the comparison to local agriculture in 1963, Ross said, “50 years ago, there just wasn’t the diversity that we have now.” By having that diversity, the county is more likely to make up any reductions in income from particular crops year-to-year.

“Apricots were a large part of the landscape 50 years ago,” Ross said. “It’s still a million-dollar crop, but it’s been borderline the last couple of years. Agriculture is a dynamic industry that always changes based on market forces and consumer demand. I don’t think anybody 50 years ago envisioned the emergence of bagged lettuce.”

Local commodities (2013 value vs. 2012 value)

– field crops ($25,993,000 vs. $20,612,000)

– fruit and nut crops ($49,709,000 vs. $41,190,000)

– vegetable and row crops ($225,673,000 vs. 207,831,000)

– cattle ($17,179,000 vs. $15,636,000)

– misc. livestock and poultry ($11,848,000 vs. $12,486,000)


$330,402,000 (2013) 

$297,755,000 (2012)

To access the San Benito County Crop Report online, click here.