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CDFA: California Agriculture in 2018

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June 24, 2020

California’s farm sales were $50 billion in 2018, the same as in 2017. Iowa was the number two farm state with sales of $28 billion, followed by TX, NE, and MN. These top five farm states accounted for 37 percent of US farm sales of $373 billion.

California’s top 20 commodities had sales of $43 billion or 86 percent of the state’s total farm sales, led by milk worth $6.4 billion, grapes worth $6.3 billion, and almonds worth $5.5 billion. California had 69,000 farms in 2018, including 20,000 with more than $100,000 in sales.

California exported farm commodities worth $21 billion or 42 percent of its total farm sales, led by almonds, whose exports were worth $4.5 billion, and pistachios, $1.7 billion. The three leading destinations, the EU, Canada, and China/Hong Kong, accounted for 42 percent of California’s farm exports.

US farm sales are divided about 50-50 between crop and animal commodities. California is different: crops were worth $38 billion or 77 percent of the state’s farm sales, led by $21.8 billion worth of fruits and nuts, $7.9 billion worth of vegetables and melons, and $6.2 billion worth of nursery, floriculture and other horticultural specialty crops, making FVH commodities worth $36 billion or 72 percent of the state’s farm sales and 94 percent of the state’s crop sales.

The leading fruits by value were grapes worth $6.2 billion in 2018, strawberries worth $2.3 billion, and oranges worth $1.1 billion. Lemons were worth $682 million, avocados $383 million, plums $345 million, raspberries $331 million, and peaches $304 million. The acreage of grapes rose from 810,000 to 863,000 between 2009 and 2018, while strawberry acreage fell from 39,800 to 35,800 and orange acreage fell from 186,000 to 147,000.

The leading vegetables were lettuce worth $1.8 billion, broccoli worth $679 million, and carrots worth $664 million. Garlic was worth $453 million, celery $425 million, cauliflower $455 million, and spinach $302 million. The acreage of leaf and romaine lettuce rose between 2009 and 2018, while the acreage of head lettuce fell from 105,000 to 82,000. Broccoli acreage fell from 118,000 to 104,000, and carrot acreage was stable at 64,000 acres.

Milk worth $6.4 billion and cattle worth $3.2 billion accounted for 82 percent of the $11.7 billion in animal commodities sold in 2018. California had 1.7 million milk cows that each produced an average 23,300 pounds of milk in 2018; farmers received almost $16 per hundredweight of milk in 2018, down from a peak $22 in 2014. California had 5.2 million cattle at the beginning of 2018, added 1.9 million calves during the year, and ended the year with 5.2 million as cattle and calves were shipped out of state or slaughtered.

The leading counties by farm sales were Fresno with $7.9 billion, Kern with $7.5 billion, and Tulare with $7.2 billion; these three counties accounted for 44 percent of the state’s farm sales. The 15 counties with farm sales of $1 billion or more accounted for over 90 percent of the state’s farm sales.

California’s organic farm sales were $10 billion in 2018, 40 percent of US organic sales of $25 billion. Kern county led in organic farm sales with $782 million, followed by Monterey, $480 million, and Fresno, $299 million.

California is the third largest state, after Alaska and Texas, but only a quarter of its 100 million acres are used by farmers, and half of the 24 million acres of farm land is pasture and rangeland There are 7.8 million acres of harvested cropland, almost all irrigated. The amount of farm land fell over the past half century, but the amount of irrigated crop land rose slightly.

Between 1997 and 2017, the amount of irrigated crop land decreased by almost a million acres. The acreage of field crops decreased by almost two million acres, led by drops in cotton and grain acreage, while the acreage of tree nuts rose by over a million acres, led by almonds. One effect of fewer field crops and more tree nuts is the need for reliable supplies of water for irrigation. Cotton and grain are annual crops that farmers can decide not to plant in dry years, while trees and vines need water each year.

CDFA. 2020. California Agriculture Statistics Review. 2018-19. https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/statistics/

California’s top 20 farm commodities accounted for 86 percent of the $50 billion in farm sales in 2018

Top 20 Commodities for 2016-2018
Commodity Value and Rank 1
2016 2017 2018
$1,000   $1,000   $1,000  
Milk and Cream 6,065,700 1 6,561,720 1 6,372,437 1
Grapes 5,581,410 2 5,847,966 2 6,254,211 2
Almonds (shelled) 5,158,160 3 5,603,950 3 5,468,040 3
Miscellaneous Crops 2 4,855,825 4 4,088,169 4 4,725,764 4
Cattle & Calves 2,526,285 6 2,647,838 6 3,189,177 5
Pistachios 1,506,120 8 1,014,507 11 2,615,550 6
Berries, All Strawberries 1,834,783 5 2,530,903 7 2,340,315 7
Lettuce, All 1,960,266 7 3,017,377 5 1,814,809 8
Floriculture 1,127,803 11 1,171,900 9 1,215,997 9
Tomatoes, All 1,329,523 9 1,075,824 10 1,197,642 10
Oranges, All 826,294 12 888,331 13 1,121,566 11
Broilers 800,893 13 938,973 12 967,822 12
Walnuts 1,241,660 10 1,568,700 8 878,800 13
Hay, All 774,527 14 769,710 15 769,826 14
Rice 704,411 17 699,401 17 755,763 15
Lemons 593,869 18 717,746 16 681,564 16
Broccoli 774,390 15 850,183 14 679,405 17
Carrots, All 734,828 16 627,163 18 663,660 18
Tangerines 457,433 20 532,038 19 556,024 19
Chicken eggs 210,160 33 267,690 34 503,663 20
1 Total value is based on ERS cash receipts.
2 Includes nursery/greenhouse crops (excluding Floriculture), Christmas trees, seed crops, and miscellaneous field, vegetable, berry, tree fruit, and nut crops.

California’s top three farm counties accounted for 44 percent of the $50 billion in farm sales in 2018

Top 10 Agricultural Counties
County Total Value and Rank Leading Commodities
$1,000
2017 2018
Fresno 7,024,915 3 7,911,893 1 Almonds, Pistachios, Livestock (Unspecified), Grapes (Table)
Kern 7,254,004 1 7,469,670 2 Grapes (Table), Almonds, Pistachios, Milk
Tulare 7,050,855 2 7,213,141 3 Milk, Oranges (Navel) , Grapes (Table), Cattle & Calves
Monterey 4,425,425 4 4,258,628 4 Strawberries, Lettuce, Broccoli, Wine Grapes
Stanislaus 3,648,192 5 3,569,989 5 Almonds, Milk, Chickens, Nursery
Merced 3,409,518 6 3,254,144 6 Milk, Almonds, Chickens, Cattle
San Joaquin 2,527,966 7 2,594,221 7 Almonds, Grapes (Wine), Milk, Walnuts
Kings 2,058,715 10 2,351,983 8 Milk, Pistachios, Cotton (Pima), Cattle & Calves
Imperial 2,065,599 9 2,226,030 9 Cattle, Alfalfa Hay, Vegetables, Other Hay
Ventura 2,099,889 8 2,103,232 10 Strawberries, Lemons, Celery, Raspberries
Source: California County Agricultural Commissioners’ Reports

California exported $21 billion worth of farm commodities in 2018, including $7.5 billion worth of almonds, pistachios, and walnuts

California Agricultural Products Export Values and Rankings, 2016-2018
2018 Rank Product 2016 2017 2018 Change in Value 2017 to 2018
1 Million (In Percent) 1
1 Almonds 4,497 4,483 4,530 1.0
2 Pistachios 1,145 1,518 1,736 14.3
3 Dairy and Products 2 1,416 1,599 1,696 6.1
4 Wine 1,493 1,401 1,327 -5.3
5 Walnuts 1,342 1,370 1,281 -6.5
6 Table Grapes 799 795 801 0.8
7 Oranges and Products 2, 3 678 679 650 -4.3
8 Rice 714 637 629 -1.3
9 Tomatoes, Processed 2 743 649 599 -7.7
10 Cotton 324 377 445 17.9
11 Strawberries 2, 3 403 414 439 6.1
12 Beef and Products 4 312 375 414 10.4
13 Hay 2, 3 366 346 334 -3.5
14 Seeds2 358 343 315 -7.9
15 Lettuce 2, 3 293 317 297 -6.3
16 Raisins 322 307 283 -7.9
17 Lemons 218 219 209 -4.2
18 Prunes 163 140 142 1.7
19 Raspberries and Blackberries 5 129 130 135 3.6
20 Cauliflower 118 127 134 5.8
1 Total export values for each year are rounded to the nearest million dollars. More precise values are used in the percent change calculations.
2 Export values for 2017 were revised based on updated production data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture/National Agricultural Statistics Service.
3 Export values for 2016 were revised based on updated production data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture/National Agricultural Statistics Service.
4 Hides and skins are included in the heading "Beef and Products".
5 "Raspberries and Blackberries" category also includes exports of mulberries and loganberries. Source: University of California, Agricultural Issues Center

All grapes, strawberries, and oranges were the leading fruit crops in 2018

Commodity Rank, Acreage, Production, and Value, 2018
Commodity U.S. Rank 1 CA Share U.S. Receipts 2 Area Harvested Production Total Value 2 California Rank 3
Fruit and Nut Crops Total Value   2017 2018
Number Percent 1,000 Acres 1,000 Tons $1,000 Number
Almond (shelled) 1 100.0 1,090.0 2,280.0 5,468,040 3 2
Apples 5 2.4 13.5 125.0 71,000 49 42
Apricots 1 78.5 8.8 31.7 38,055 55 50
Avocados 1 95.8 50.9 171.0 383,485 20 20
Berries, Blueberries 2 17.0 6.6 36.3 139,755 38 33
Berries, Raspberries 1 90.2 7.4 80.1 331,088 18 22
Berries, All Strawberries 1 87.6 35.8 1,443.5 2,340,315 4 5
Cherries, Sweet 2 22.0 33.0 44.8 140,395 24 32
Dates 1 56.6 9.9 30.0 86,109 43 38
Figs 1 NA 6.4 NA 28,568 59 NA
Grapefruit, All 1 35.7 9.3 564.0 78,872 47 39
Grapes, Raisin Type NA NA 158.0 1,545.0 NA NA NA
Grapes, Table type NA NA 111.0 1,300.0 NA NA NA
Grapes, Wine Type NA NA 560.0 4,285.0 NA NA NA
Grapes, All 1 94.5 829.0 7,130.0 6,254,211 2 1
Kiwifruit 1 100.0 4.4 37.8 32,886 56 52
Lemons 1 95.2 47.0 966.0 681,564 15 13
Nectarines 1 100.0 18.0 120.5 104,626 40 35
Olives 1 100.0 36.0 53.6 40,523 35 49
Oranges, Navel & Misc NA NA 118.0 3,094.0 NA NA NA
Oranges, Valencia NA NA 29.0 2,233.0 NA NA NA
Oranges, All 1 63.4 147.0 5,327.0 1,121,566 10 9
Peaches, Clingstone NA NA 18.3 259.0 NA NA NA
Peaches, Freestone NA NA 20.0 244.0 NA NA NA
Peaches, All 1 59.5 38.3 479.0 304,213 21 23
Pears, All 3 18.0 11.2 161.5 77,344 44 41
Pecans 6 1.7 3.5 3.7 7,400 63 57
Pistachios 1 100.0 264.0 987.0 2,615,550 9 4
Plums and Prunes 1 100.0 63.0 190.2 345,540 23 NA
Tangerines, Mandarins, Tangelos & Tangors 1 96.4 62.0 1,087.0 D 16 16
Walnuts 1 100.0 315.0 676.0 878,800 7 10
1 Based on ERS quantity produced for crops and on quantity marketed for livestock and poultry products.
2 Based on ERS cash receipts value of quantity harvested for crops, value of quantity marketed for livestock, and value of quantity produced for poultry products.
3 Based on ERS cash receipts.
D: Withheld to avoid disclosing data for individual operations.
NA: Not available.

Lettuce, broccoli and carrots were the leading vegetables in 2018

Commodity Rank, Acreage, Production, and Value, 2018
Commodity U.S. Rank 1 CA Share U.S. Receipts 2 Area Harvested Production Total Value 2 California Rank 3
Vegetable and Melon Crops Total Value   2017 2018
Number Percent 1,000 Acres 1,000 Tons $1,000 Number
Artichokes 1 100.0 6.9 56.0 63,032 52 45
Asparagus 1 30.3 6.0 10.1 26,552 62 55
Beans, Green Lima 1 35.1 NA NA 7,350 NA 58
Beans, All nap 1 26.3 7.9 50.9 95,534 41 36
Broccoli 1 92.0 103.0 894.0 679,405 11 14
Cabbage, All 1 45.7 14.2 270.4 181,533 34 30
Carrots, All 1 90.7 64.3 1,440.3 663,600 14 15
Cauliflower 1 81.3 37.8 455.1 345,611 25 21
Celery 1 95.6 28.3 935.0 424,542 26 19
Corn, Fresh Market weet 1 19.9 32.8 330.6 170,626 32 31
Cucumbers, All 3 13.1 8.1 93.0 43,649 42 48
Garlic 1 100.0 32.8 321.4 452,599 19 18
Lettuce, Head 1 62.8 81.7 1,601.3 766,346 NA NA
Lettuce, Leaf 1 82.0 59.5 499.8 480,165 NA NA
Lettuce, Romaine 1 63.1 72.7 1,139.9 568,298 NA NA
Lettuce, All 1 67.1 213.9 3,241.1 1,814,809 6 6
Melons, Cantaloupe 1 56.7 31.5 467.5 187,819 39 28
Melons, Honeydew 1 100.0 14.9 258.7 90,532 45 37
Melons, Watermelon 3 17.8 11.9 359.9 116,369 37 34
Mushroom, Agaricus 2 20.3 NA NA NA 27 NA
Onions, All 1 22.3 42.5 956.3 182,595 29 29
Peppers, Bell 1 39.4 13.5 340.2 210,007 NA NA
Peppers, Chili 2 31.1 2.7 58.2 29,468 NA NA
Peppers, All 1 38.1 16.2 398.4 239,475 22 26
Pumpkins 1 14.5 4.9 75.5 27,592 61 54
Spinach, All 1 71.5 44.2 309.4 302,201 30 24
Squash 3 16.1 6.7 58.2 30,973 58 53
Tomatoes, Fresh 2 27.9 NA NA 227,193 NA NA
Tomatoes, Processing 1 93.1 NA NA 970,449 NA NA
Tomatoes, All 1 64.5 NA NA 1,197,642 8 8
1 Based on ERS quantity produced for crops and on quantity marketed for livestock and poultry products.
2 Based on ERS cash receipts value of quantity harvested for crops, value of quantity marketed for livestock, and value of quantity produced for poultry products.
3 Based on ERS cash receipts.
D: Withheld to avoid disclosing data for individual operations.
NA: Not available.

Dairy products and cattle and calves accounted for 82 percent of California animal commodity sales in 2018

Commodity Rank, Marketings, and Value, 2018
Commodity U.S. Rank 1 CA Share of U.S. Prod. Marketings Cash Receipts 2 California Rank 3
Livestock, Dairy, Poultry, and Apiary Total Value   2017 2018
Number Percent 1,000 Pounds $1,000 Number
Cattle and Calves 7 4.8 2,907,050 3,189,177 5 5
Farm Chickens 23 <1 NA 109 68 74
Hogs and Pigs 28 <1 47,705 27,453 60 64
Honey 2 8.5 13,735 28,294 57 62
Milk and Cream 1 18.1 40,413,000 6,372,437 1 1
Sheep and Lambs (included in Other) NA NA NA NA NA NA
Turkeys 8 4.2 317,900 162,129 33 38
Wool 2 11.2 2,400 4,800 65 72
Other Livestock & Poultry NA NA NA NA NA NA
  Number of Eggs (1,000)  
Eggs, Chicken 9 4.8 4,295,000 503,663 28 20
1 Based on ERS quantity produced for crops and on quantity marketed for livestock and poultry products.
2 Based on ERS cash receipts value of quantity harvested for crops, value of quantity marketing for livestock, and value of quantity produced for poultry products.
3 Based on ERS cash receipts.
NA: Not available.

The three leading farm counties, Fresno, Kern, and Tulare, accounted for 44 percent of the state’s farm sales in 2018

County Rank, Total Value of Production and Leading Commodities, 2018 1
Rank County 2 Total Value Leading Commodities
2017 2018 $1,000
3 1 Fresno 7,911,893 Almonds, Pistachios, Livestock (Unspecified), Grapes (Table)
1 2 Kern 7,469,670 Grapes (Table), Almonds, Pistachios, Milk
2 3 Tulare 7,213,141 Milk, Oranges (Navel), Grapes (Table), Cattle & Calves
4 4 Monterey 4,258,628 Strawberries, Lettuce, Broccoli, Wine Grapes
5 5 Stanislaus 3,569,989 Almonds, Milk, Chickens, Nursery
6 6 Merced 3,254,144 Milk, Almonds, Chickens, Cattle
7 7 San Joaquin 2,594,221 Almonds, Grapes (Wine), Milk, Walnuts
10 8 Kings 2,351,983 Milk, Pistachios, Cotton (Pima), Cattle & Calves
9 9 Imperial 2,226,030 Cattle, Alfalfa Hay, Vegetables, Other Hay
8 10 Ventura 2,103,232 Strawberries, Lemons, Celery, Raspberries
11 11 Madera 2,056,955 Almonds, Pistachios, Milk, Grapes (Raisin)
12 12 San Diego 1,769,801 Nursery (Woody Ornaments), Flowers, Nursery (Plants), Avocados
13 13 Santa Barbara 1,522,120 Strawberries, Vegetables, Grapes (Wine), Flowers (Cut)
14 14 Riverside 1,299,208 Milk, Nursery, Grapes (Table), Lemons
16 15 Sonoma 1,106,663 Grapes (Wine), Milk, Livestock Products, Cattle & Calves
19 16 Napa 1,043,195 Grapes (Wine), Cattle & Calves, Livestock Products, Nursery
15 17 San Luis Obispo 1,035,499 Grapes (Wine), Strawberries, Vegetables (Unspecified), Broccoli
1 Totals vary slightly from totals published by counties due to classification differences between county and state reports.
2 Totals may not add due to rounding.
Source: County Agricultural Commissioners' Reports and State Board of Equalization, Timber Tax Division.

California’s irrigated crop land fell by a million acres over the past two decades as cotton and grain acreage fell while almond, pistachio, and walnut acreage rose

California Land, Cropland and Irrigated Land in Farms by Major Crops, 1959–2017
  Census Year
  1959 1969 1978 1987 1997 2007 2017
Acres
Land in Farms 36,887,948 35,722,348 33,130,362 30,598,178 28,795,834 25,364,695 24,522,801
Total Cropland 12,965,640 11,245,140 11,721,056 10,894,503 11,062,811 9,464,647 9,597,439
Harvested Cropland 8,021,836 7,649,021 8,899,360 7,676,287 8,676,242 7,633,173 7,857,512
Irrigated Land 7,395,570 7,240,131 8,603,719 7,596,091 8,886,693 8,016,159 7,833,593
Specialty Crops
Vegetables 814,322 849,349 1,168,847 1,102,167 1,536,484 1,504,919 1,423,840
Non-Citrus Fruits 472,528 497,320 486,233 538,191 597,339 444,664 365,156
Grapes 469,234 458,261 644,302 707,748 870,527 868,330 935,272
Citrus Fruits 242,475 266,141 248,632 268,836 315,758 303,101 312,162
Nuts 250,571 365,978 540,710 637,889 869,369 1,210,203 2,023,746
Berries 14,271 10,530 14,204 16,600 31,356 42,081 52,930
Total Specialty Crop 2,263,401 2,447,579 3,102,928 3,271,431 4,220,833 4,373,298 5,113,106
Specialty Share of Irrigated Land 30.60% 33.81% 36.06% 43.07% 47.50% 54.56% 65.27%
Field Crops
Rice NA NA 485,416 399,193 514,081 531,075 436,710
Cotton 820,724 659,904 1,520,708 1,083,811 1,036,316 471,378 301,665
Hay, haylage, silage 1,369,343 1,286,866 1,204,421 1,279,364 1,465,504 1,554,197 1,344,102
Irrigated Pasture NA NA 868,768 631,991 733,506 741,911 484,903
Grain & Other 2,942,102 2,845,782 1,421,478 930,301 916,453 344,300 153,107
Total Field Crops 5,132,169 4,792,552 5,500,791 4,324,660 4,665,860 3,642,861 2,720,487
Source: USDA Census of Agriculture, various years