County Releases Annual Agriculture Report
– Recorded crop values for San Luis Obispo County hit an all-time high in 2021, with the total on-farm value reaching $1,081,952,000, according to the annual crop report released last week by the county of San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo. This is only the second time the county’s annual farm value tops $1 billion, and it represents a 10% increase in total value from 2020. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to affect the agricultural industry and markets continued to experience significant shifts throughout the year, the overall agricultural commodities market was strong in 2021 as prices rebounded from the downturns seen at the height of the pandemic.
Strawberries remained the county’s most valued crop for the third straight year, reaching its highest value in county history at nearly $320 million. The Fruits and Nuts category boosted the county’s overall crop values. The vegetable and nursery sectors remained stable, and the cattle and field crop sectors struggled in the face of severe drought challenges.
These figures represent gross product values only and do not reflect the net benefits received by local agricultural producers. In addition, the reported values do not include multipliers related to secondary economic benefits.
The top ten commodities by value in 2021 were:
- wine grapes
- Cattle and calves
- vegetable transplants
- head lettuce
- cut flowers
The county’s total animal industry value declined slightly in 2021 as local ranchers continue to battle the ongoing drought. Although cattle prices were relatively high and the total number of head sold was relatively stable compared to 2020, individual cattle weights were down significantly due to the lack of available forage. Conditions in the cattle industry could take years to recover, as many ranchers have had to sell most of their herds in recent years due to dry weather and poor range conditions.
The overall value of field crops produced in the county again fell significantly in 2021 with a 26% reduction in gross value caused primarily by the extremely dry conditions. Although prices have been high for hay and barley, yields have fallen significantly since these crops depend on winter rainfall and not supplemental irrigation. In addition to the low yields for those acres that were harvested, there were hundreds of planted acres that were not harvested at all due to lack of growth caused by the continued drought.
Fruit and nut crops:
The fruit and nut sector had a banner year in 2021, as strawberries retained the title of the county’s best crop and wine grapes rebounded from a difficult year in 2020. Despite a reduction in harvested acres of wine grapes, as disease pressures and market forces continue to spur large-scale replanting in our region, favorable growing conditions have resulted in increased yields for all varietals. These increased yields combined with high prices for most varietals resulted in one of the best years on record.
Despite some challenging growing conditions seen in 2021, including drought, hot spells and high winds, overall avocado and lemon values have also increased. Bearing acreage for both crops continues to increase in the county and both recorded higher prices than in 2020, resulting in a 22% increase in the value of avocados and an 11% increase in lemons.
Nursery values rose slightly in 2021 as markets stabilized after the chaos experienced in 2020 due to the pandemic. Local production has varied as some greenhouses have been brought back into production and other businesses have left homes unused. The industry continues to struggle with labor shortages and rapidly changing consumer demand, but local incubators remain optimistic about the industry’s future as foreign competition has waned slightly and opened up new market opportunities.
Vegetable crops :
The value of vegetables increased slightly in 2021 as favorable weather conditions allowed growers to weather the challenges posed by labor shortages, rising costs and lower overall prices in some of our major crops, such as broccoli and cauliflower. Although markets were more stable than the previous year, producers still experienced large fluctuations in farm gate prices throughout the year, and this market instability along with the increased cost of inputs have significantly affected the profitability of local producers.
Broccoli remained the most important vegetable crop in the county as both acreage and production increased significantly. Cauliflower and head lettuce are the other local vegetable crops that remain among the county’s top 10 crops.