County’s annual agricultural value exceeded one billion dollars
County releases annual agricultural report
– Crop values recorded for San Luis Obispo County reached a record high in 2021, as total farmgate value topped out at $1,081,952,000, according to the annual crop report released last week by the County of San Luis Obispo. That marks only the second time that the county’s annual agricultural value has exceeded one billion dollars, and it represents a 10-percent increase in total value over 2020. Although the COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect the agricultural industry and markets still experienced significant shifts throughout the year, the overall market for agricultural goods was strong in 2021 as prices rebounded from the downturns seen at the height of the pandemic.
Strawberries remained the top valued crop in the county for the third straight year, reaching its highest valuation in county history at nearly 320 million dollars. The Fruit & Nut category bolstered the overall county crop values. The vegetable and nursery sectors remained steady, and the cattle and field crops sectors struggled under the challenges of severe drought conditions.
These figures represent only commodity gross values and do not reflect net profits received by local agricultural producers. Also, 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 total value of the county’s animal industry decreased slightly in 2021 as local ranchers continued to struggle with the ongoing drought. Although cattle prices were relatively strong and the total number of head sold was relatively stable compared to 2020, individual cattle weight was down significantly due to the lack of available forage. Conditions for the cattle industry could take years to rebound as many ranchers have had to sell off most of their herds these past few years in response to the dry weather and poor rangeland conditions.
The overall value of field crops produced in the county fell significantly again in 2021 with a 26-percent reduction in gross value caused primarily by the extremely dry conditions. Although prices were high for both grain hay and barley, yields fell significantly since those crops are dependent 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 weren’t harvested at all due to the lack of growth brought on by the continued drought.
Fruit and nut crops:
The fruit and nut sector had a record year in 2021, as strawberries held on to the title for the top crop in the county and wine grapes rebounded from a difficult year in 2020. Despite a reduction in the harvested acres of wine grapes, as disease pressures and market forces continue to spur widespread replanting in our area, favorable growing conditions led to increased yields for all varietals. Those increased yields combined with strong prices for most varietals to provide one of the biggest years on record.
Despite some challenging growing conditions seen in 2021 that included drought, heat spells, and high winds, the overall values for avocados and lemons also increased. Bearing acreage for both crops continues to increase in the county and both saw higher prices than in 2020, leading to a 22-percent increase in value for avocados and an 11-percent increase for lemons.
Nursery values ticked up slightly in 2021 as markets stabilized after the chaos experienced in 2020 due to the pandemic. Local output varied as some greenhouses were brought back into production and other businesses left houses unused. The industry continues to struggle with labor shortages and rapidly shifting demand from consumers, but local nurseries remain optimistic about the future of the industry as foreign competition has decreased slightly and opened additional market opportunities.
Vegetable values increased slightly in 2021, as favorable weather conditions enabled growers to withstand the challenges brought on by labor shortages, increased costs, and lower overall prices for some of our main crops, such as broccoli and cauliflower. Although markets were steadier than the previous year, growers still experienced wide swings in farmgate prices throughout the year, and that market instability along with increasing input costs, greatly affected the profitability for local growers.
Broccoli remained the county’s highest value vegetable crop, as acreage and production were up significantly. Cauliflower and head lettuce are the other local vegetable crops that remain within the top 10 valued crops in the county.