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April 2019, Volume 25, Number 2
California's farm sales of $50 billion in 2017 were an eighth of US farm sales of $374 billion. California's farm sales were almost double the $27 billion farm sales of Iowa and the $23 billion farm sales of Texas.
The value of California's farm exports was $21 billion, meaning that, by value, over 40 percent of the state's farm products were exported. Exports were led by almonds, dairy products, pistachios, wine and walnuts. California exported $3.4 billion worth of farm commodities to the EU in 2017, $3.3 billion to Canada, and $2.3 billion to China.
Crops worth $39 billion included $22 billion from fruits and nuts; $8.4 billion from vegetables and melons; $6.4 billion from greenhouse, nursery and other crops; and $2.2 billion from field crops led by rice. Over half of the $11 billion from the sale of animal commodities was dairy products.
The 20 leading commodities accounted for $37 billion or three-fourths of the state's farm sales. The leading commodities included dairy products worth $6.6 billion in 2017; grapes worth $5.8 billion; almonds worth $5.6 billion; strawberries worth $3.1 billion; cattle worth $2.5 billion; and lettuce worth $2.4 billon.
The leading farm counties were Kern with $7.3 billion in farm sales; Tulare and Fresno, each with $7 billion; and Monterey with $4.4 billion in farm sales.
California has 36,000 acres of olives that produced 192,000 tons worth $187 million in 2017. Most table olives are hand picked, but almost all olives planted to high densities for oil are machine harvested, yielding about eight tons an acre.
The state's two major table olive processors, Musco Family Olive and Bell-Carter, are urging olive growers to replant so that their table olives can be harvested mechanically. Bell-Carter cancelled contracts with many table olive producers early in 2019, reportedly because it can import table olives more cheaply from Spain for processing and sale in the US.
Olive trees can produce for decades, making some growers with older trees reluctant to replant. Mechanization involves trunk shakers or a finger technology that relies on rotating fingers to dislodge the fruit into a catching frame.