Tulare County took the title for top ag-producing county in the nation for 2022, beating out both Fresno and Kern counties.
With the announcement of the Fresno County 2022 Crop Report on Tuesday comes the news that Tulare County’s $8.6 billion in ag values surged past Fresno County’s $8.1 billion and Kern County’s $7.7 billion.
Tulare County released its crop report on Sept. 26, two weeks after Kern County’s totals came out.
Tulare County ag values increased by 6.5% while Fresno remained stagnant, growing only .12%. Kern County ag values decreased by 7%.
The three counties compete annually for bragging rights at the nation’s top ag-producing county.
Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner Tom Tucker called the record-breaking amount a “milestone.”
“We have reached $8.6 billion in value with our agricultural products, things that are grown and sold here in the county and across the world for that matter,” Tucker said.
Fresno County Crop Values
Feed Costs Followed High Milk Demand. Dairyman Predicts Higher Beef Prices
The value of dairy products, including cheese, powder, and liquid milk, shot up by 38%, according to the Tulare County crop report.
In total, milk grossed $2.7 billion, up from $1.9 billion in 2021.
Strong domestic consumption and strong export markets for cheese and whey powder fueled that push, Tucker said.
Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel said in the board meeting that that value was achieved without adding a single dairy.
“This has everything to do with the market supply and demand,” Vander Poel said.
But that increase in value came with higher costs for dairies.
“Yeah, we had good milk prices and everybody says ‘you should be making good money you have good milk prices,’ ” said Tyler Ribeiro, owner of Rib-Arrow Dairy in Tulare. “But when you have record-setting input price, you have record-setting alfalfa price and corn — you can’t get a break. That margin shrinks.”
Tulare County Crop Values
While the 2022-23 water year was remarkable for its rainfall, the 2021-22 water year was remarkable for its lack of rainfall.
Ranchers had to truck alfalfa in. And regulations along the Colorado River to the Imperial Valley and Arizona began to kick in, increasing costs.
More recently, Ribeiro is starting to see feed prices coming down.
At the same time, beef prices are “through the roof,” he said.
“It’s higher than I’ve ever seen it,” Ribeiro said. The beef industry relies on financing. It can cost $3,000 to feed an animal, and because of that, there’s been a shortage of animals.
That shortage now could mean high prices next year, Ribeiro said.
“But that’s just speculation. I don’t know if I’d hang my hat on that,” he said.
The high beef prices have contributed to the decline in Tulare County dairies. With prices so high, some dairy farmers have made the choice to sell their herd, Ribeiro said.
High economic, political, and environmental regulatory costs have made high beef prices more attractive, Ribeiro said.
“So we are going to be seeing a shrink in dairy animals. We’re going to see a shrink in milk flow. I would assume here that’s probably greater than we’ve seen in the last few years,” Ribeiro said.
Grapes in Fresno County Take Top Spot for First Time in 10 Years
The powerhouse almond crop farmers have relied on for years to buoy other commodity prices has stumbled in the past few years. High supply combined with difficulty exporting collapsed prices.
Almonds brought Fresno County growers $1.14 billion in gross value in 2022.
Reported acreage in the Fresno County crop report increased 16,479 acres year-over-year, but prices continued to slip in 2022. A ton of almonds grossed $3,148, according to the crop report, down from $3,736 in 2021. In 2018, almonds sold for $4,626 a ton.
Ag commissioners determine values through surveys sent to growers.
Fresno County Ag Commissioner Melissa Cregan said they determine an average based on what growers report.
“Understandably, there’s folks out there that are hesitant to fill those out,” Cregan said in a presentation to the Board of Supervisors.
As almonds retreated, grapes came in to take their place.
The combined value of raisins, table grapes, and wine grapes decreased to $1.2 billion from $1.3 billion in 2021. Grapes have not been the top crop since 2012, Cregan said.
Pistachios came in third at $705.9 million.