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April 2023, Volume 29, Number 2

California Agriculture

California had farm sales of $51 billion in 2021, up from $49 billion in 2020 and 1.5x the farm sales of Iowa. California accounted for 12 percent of US farm sales of $434 billion in 2021, including $238 billion from the sale of crops and $195 billion from the sale of animal commodities.

The most valuable California commodity was milk worth $7.6 billion, followed by grapes worth $5.2 billion and almonds and nursery crops each worth $5 billion. Cattle and calves, strawberries, pistachios, lettuce, tomatoes, walnuts and rice were among the 11 commodities that each had farm sales of over $1 billion in 2021.

California exported farm commodities worth $22 billion in 2021, led by $4.6 billion worth of almonds (88 percent of the almonds were exported), $2.5 billion worth of dairy products, and $2 billion worth of wine. Tree nut exports of almonds, pistachios, and walnuts were over a third of California’s farm exports.

The three leading farm counties, Kern, Fresno, and Tulare, each had farm sales of over $8 billion and collectively accounted for over half of the state’s farm sales. The leading commodity in Kern and Fresno county was grapes, and in Tulare county oranges.

The leading labor-intensive fruit crops by value included strawberries worth $3 billion, oranges worth $900 million, tangerines and mandarins worth $800 million, and lemons worth $600 million. Raspberries worth $400 million were more valuable than cherries, $300 million, and blueberries, $200 million. Peaches were worth $400 million and avocados $300 million.

Many Salinas Valley fields were flooded in January 2023, which delayed the planting of lettuce and other leafy greens that are normally harvested in April and May. California processing tomato acreage has been falling. A record crop of 14 million tons was followed by 11-million ton crops in 2021 and 2022, which helped to raise grower prices to a record $138 a ton for the 2023 crop.

California voters legalized the production and use of recreational marijuana via a ballot measure in 2016. Legal marijuana sales were $5.3 billion in California in 2022, and the state collected about $1 billion in sales and excise taxes. Twenty-one states legalized recreational marijuana by 2023.


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