April 2016, Volume 22, Number 2
California agriculture had sales of $54 billion in 2014, up from $51 billion in 2013. Iowa had $31 billion in farm sales and Nebraska and Texas about $25 billion each. California's farm exports of $22 billion were 40 percent of the value of all commodities produced.
As in past years, the value of FVH commodities, $34.5 billion, was over 90 percent of the value of the state's crops and almost two-thirds of the state's total farm sales. FVH commodities are: fruits and nuts, $20.8 billion; vegetables, $8.3 billion; and horticultural specialties including flowers and mushrooms, $5.4 billion.
Leading commodities in 2014 were: milk worth $9.4 billion; almonds $5.9 billion (three-fourths were exported); grapes $5.2 billion; cattle $3.7 billion; and strawberries, $2.5 billion. These five commodities accounted for half of California's farm sales, and the top 20 commodities accounted for $43 billion or 80 percent of the state's farm sales. The average value of irrigated cropland was $12,100.
The state's leading farm counties were: Tulare, with $8.1 billion in farm sales; Kern with $7.6 billion; Fresno with $7 billion; and Monterey with $4.5 billion. These five counties accounted for half of the state's farm sales.
California's three major nuts are almonds, pistachios and walnuts. Most of the nuts produced in the state are exported, and the high US dollar combined with slowing economic growth abroad reduced almond prices from $5 a pound in mid-2014 to $3 in winter 2016. The global supply of walnuts was one million tons in 2015, reducing grower prices.
The state's 40,000 acres of strawberries probably employ more harvest workers than any other commodity, some 50,000 to 60,000. Strawberries are unique because the majority of growers (but not the most acreage) are Latinos, including many who began as harvest workers.