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January 2023, Volume 29, Number 1

California: Crops, Cannabis

Kern, Tulare and Fresno led California counties in farm sales in 2021, with $8.4, $8.4, and $8 billion in farm sales, respectively.

California growers are expected to plant a record 42,000 acres of strawberries in 2023, including 32,000 that were planted in fall 2022 for harvest during the spring and summer of 2023, and another 10,000 acres planted in the spring of 2022 to be harvested in fall 2023. The Monterey variety, which is day-neutral, is the most widely planted.

California’s almond acreage stabilized at 1.3 million bearing acres and 2.8 billion pounds in 2022, as drought reduced new plantings and some orchards were removed. Between 2014 and 2020, over 100,000 acres of almonds were planted each year, and there were 300,000 non-bearing acres in 2022. California produces over 90 percent of the world’s almonds.

Walnut prices fell sharply from a peak of $1.85 a pound in 2013 to less than $0.75 in 2021. Almost 60 percent of the 730,000 in-shell tons in 2021 were the Chandler variety. Free tonnage raisin prices peaked at $2,000 a ton in 2018, fell to $1,200 a ton in 2020, and were about $1,500 in 2021, when total tonnage was about 220,000. The 80,000 tons of prunes in 2021 were worth an average $2,000 a ton.

California voters in 2018 approved Proposition 12, which bans the sale of pork products that do not come from pigs born to sows that have at least 24 square feet of space. Most of the pork consumed in California is from out-of-state farms that assert their costs would rise by about 10 percent if they implement Prop 12. Farmers receive about $130 for each mature pig.

Cannabis. The Los Angeles Times on December 23, 2022 reported that many workers employed in the state’s cannabis industry are vulnerable to wage theft and unsafe working conditions. Piece rates for trimming dried leaves from buds have fallen from $200 a pound to less than $100.

California legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2017, but falling prices reportedly prompted many growers to underpay their workers in 2021-22.

Marijuana is or soon will be legal in 21 states, reflecting majority votes by voters in 14 states rather than politicians enacting laws. Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012, and other states followed.

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