SD County ag reverses two years of decline

Peacefield Farms

Agriculture values in San Diego County returned to their growing ways in the latest annual County Crop Report, increasing by 2.63 percent to nearly $1.75 billion after two years of decline. The report was released Monday, Oct. 2.

Total production values were led, as they have been for the last decade, by ornamental trees and shrubs like crepe myrtles and bottle brushes, indoor plants like bromeliads and dracaenas, and garden flowers like marigolds and snapdragons.

Other highlights from the Crop Report, which covers 2016 growing season, include:

  • Avocados, the County’s best known crop, rallied in value even though the number of acres planted was the lowest in five years.
  • Oranges appeared in the top 10 crops for the first time since 2008, while lemon and lime values declined.
  • Eggs and tomato values continued to decline.
  • Cactuses and succulents continued a two-year jump in production value, from roughly $43 million in 2014 to nearly $83 million in the new report.

The Crop Report, which can be seen online, is a yearly snapshot of an industry that has been an important staple of San Diego County’s total economy, but one that has faced challenges, including the state’s historic multi-year drought that ended in January, the cost of water, fires, freezes, pests and diseases.

Despite those challenges, total agriculture production values have grown more than they have fallen, increasing in six of the last 10 years, and by 19.4 percent from 2006 to 2016, from $1.46 billion to $1.746 billion.

In addition to releasing the 2016 Crop Report Monday, the County’s Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures released a new “multiplier” formula showing that the complete value of agriculture to the county’s economy in 2016 was nearly $3 billion — $2.95 billion.

The multiplier included the roughly $1.75 billion in direct economic output from agricultural production, but also included indirect and induced “ripple” effects created by agriculture — how many jobs the industry created and how much money its businesses and employees spent into the broader economy.

The County Board of Supervisors has taken several actions in recent years to boost agriculture, including: creating a boutique winery ordinance; approving a new beekeeping ordinance that allows more beekeeping while protecting the public; adopting an agricultural easement program that preserves agricultural space; streamlining regulations for things like cheese-making, agri-tourism and onsite horticultural sales.

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob responded to the report on her Facebook page: “Lots of good news today on the farm front. New county reports show that the total value of local crops has grown to $1.74 billion and that agriculture contributes $2.88 billion annually to our economy. That works out to nearly 17,000 jobs are directly or indirectly tied to agriculture!”

Here’s a list of the Top 10 Crops in the 2016 Crop Report.

2016 Crop Report Top 10 Crops

Here is a list of some of the crops that rose and fell the most in value in 2016.

Crop Report Risers Fallers Final

According to the report, the most valuable crop in 2016 was ornamental trees and shrubs, at $436.8 million. Indoor flowering and foliage plants were next at $362.9 million, followed by bedding plants, color and herbaceous perennials at $239 million.

Avocados, long linked to San Diego County, were fourth at $136.2 million. The total represents an increase in value even though county officials said the number of acres planted with the trees was the lowest in five years.

Cactuses and succulents continued a recent jump in value, from roughly $43 million in 2014 to nearly $83 million.

The report is an annual snapshot of an industry that has long been an important staple of the regional economy, but one that has faced challenges like the state’s multi-year drought and resulting increases in water costs, plus fires, freezes, pests and diseases.

For more information, go to the County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures’ Crop Statistics web page.

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