The newly released San Benito County 2014 Annual Crop Report reveals that the gross value of San Benito’s agricultural industry fell more than $2 million in 2014.
According to the report, the overall value of San Benito County’s agricultural production decreased from $330,402,000 in 2013 to $328,261,000 in 2014. This meant a $2,141,000 loss in gross agricultural sales dollars in 2014 across the county.
The losses were largely due to a very mild winter, affecting crops such as cherry and vine crops that require periods of cold temperatures, as well as the ongoing California drought. The hay crop in San Benito County also suffered.
“Agriculture is one of the most important drivers in this county,” remarked San Benito Agricultural Commissioner Karen Overstreet, with professionals who do a good job of marketing as well as embracing organic and other specialty markets.
Yet the drought conditions mean that, “Agriculture is going to pay the price,” Overstreet said. “When production goes down, prices go up,” she remarked, adding that many areas of agriculture that retained their value in 2014 were actually producing less product than in previous years. In these cases, prices were raised to compensate.
This is why prices for cattle and livestock increased in 2014. The value of vegetable and row crops also rose from 2013.
The agricultural landscape in San Benito County remains diverse, the report adds, and supports not only domestic needs but also provides shipments to 52 nations.
The total value of San Benito’s agriculture has grown over the last decade, from $266 million in 2004 to $328 million in 2014.
According to the report, the losses in 2014 were attributed to less acreage in the county dedicated to tomato processing as well as “a mild winter that hindered cherry and vine crop yields.”
In fact, all crops that require freezing weather or large amounts of rainfall suffered “substantial yield losses,” even “crop failure.”
The value of field crops in San Benito County fell from $25,993,000 in 2013 to $23,729,000 in 2014. Fruit and nut crop production also fell, from a value of $49,709,000 in 2013 to $42,275,000 in 2014.
Grain hay faired particularly poorly this year, falling from a gross value of $2,670,250 in 2013 to $285,000 in 2014. Cherries and grapes also suffered. In 2014, San Benito County produced $1,631,000 value in cherries, compared with $4,496,500 in 2013. Wine grape production fell from $15,007,000 in 2013 to $14,979,000 in 2014.
Mike Waller, Winemaker at Calera Wine Company, confirmed that the vineyard's grape crop did suffer in 2014.
"We were on our third year of this drought," Waller said, "No one has seen the reprecussions of the drought more than those of us on Cienga Road."
This means that the vineyard is trucking in water to support the wells on the its property, Waller added. Even so, the vineyard crop yielded six tons of grapes from each acre in 2014 Waller said, when in a normal year he might expect each acre to produce 1.5 tons instead.
Despite the losses this year, the report did reveal some gains in value as well. The largest gain in value in 2014 was “in the rangeland unit prices and paid cent weights on cattle.”
The gross value of cattle in the county rose from $17,179,000 in 2013 to $23,284,000 in 2014. The gross value of other livestock and poultry also rose, from $11,848,000 in 2013 to $12,175,000 in 2014.
The value of vegetable and row crops also rose, from $225,673,000 in 2013 to $226,798,000 in 2014.
While the overall value of agriculture in San Benito County fell in 2014, its strength continues to be in the diversity of its agricultural production, according to the report. San Benito County is “one of the top five producing counties in California for four different crops; Spinach, Lettuces, Salad Mix, and Peppers,” the report states.
“The county continues to diversify and improve efficiency in the third year of drought conditions,” the report adds.
Vegetable and row crops represent 69 percent of total agricultural value in San Benito County. Fruit and nut crops, negatively impacted by the drought and mild winter, are 13 percent while field crops are seven percent of the total agricultural value.
Cattle represent seven percent of total agricultural value while other livestock and poultry four percent of the total value in the county.
San Benito County’s agricultural industry also included 75 certified registered growers in 2014. The total value, based on produced gross sales reported in 2014, for all organic products was $102,576,000.
According to the report, “Organic farming is an important part of the agricultural economy in San Benito County as consumer demand and grower returns continue to increase. Some of the most popular and highest-grossing commodities include salad mix varieties, spinach and walnuts.”
The annual report also states that a total of 2,125 agricultural shipments made their way to 52 different countries in 2014. Mexico and Canada were the top export countries with 813 and 473 shipments respectively. Other top export countries included Japan with 153 shipments, Italy with 116 shipments and Taiwan with 53 shipments.
The full text of the San Benito County 2014 Crop Report is available online, and can be accessed by visitng: http://www.cosb.us/county-departments/agriculture/crop-report/#.VbE5y0jIwch