Agricultural production rose in Tuolumne County last year, driven largely by strong growth in the livestock industry, according to an annual report from the Tuolumne County Agriculture Commissioner’s office.
The value of agricultural commodities produced in the county increased by more than $1.6 million in the 2010 growing season, following three consecutive years of decline, according to the Tuolumne County Crop and Livestock report.
The value of all agricultural commodities produced in the county last year was estimated at nearly $21.9 million. It was a 8.2 percent increase over 2009, which had a production value of $20.2 million.
While most crop categories experienced increases, the largest growth was seen in livestock which increased by $1.8 million to a total value of nearly $15 million in 2010. Cattle and calves, sheep, lambs, turkeys, goats and broilers all rose in value because of higher prices and greater production, according to the report.
Livestock accounts for nearly 70 percent of all agricultural products produced in Tuolumne County.
Following three years of drought, above average rainfall that fell during the spring of 2010 resulted in one of the highest production years on record for range land forage, according to the report. This record production contributed to a 22 percent jump in field crop values, to $3.5 million.
While most categories increased, timber production and nurseries, including Christmas tree production, continued to decline due to the ongoing depressed economy.
Timber accounts for more than 11 percent of the agricultural products in Tuolumne County, and brought in more than $2.4 million in 2010. The timber harvest was down from more than $3.2 million in 2009.
“All and all, the crop report is good news,” said Sasha Farkas, president of the Tuolumne County Farm Bureau.
He said that even though prices remain low, they are better than a year ago. Next year’s crop report will likely show improvement in timber production due to higher prices for processed lumber and increasing tree harvesting in the Stanislaus National Forest, he said.
Production for the 2011 growing season will also be aided by increasing direct sales of locally grown fruits, vegetables and meats at farmers markets, he said. Rising interest in agritourism to local vineyards, apple ranches, olive oil orchards and nurseries is also a factor in keeping the local farm economy healthy.
“I think this year is going to shape up to be a better year,” Farkas said. “Barring a spring freeze, Tuolumne County agriculture will continue to do well.”
Fruit and vegetable values rose despite negative weather and market conditions, as demand for locally grown grapes and olives increased last year, according to the report. Freezing temperatures and snow in late November damaged 50 percent of the olive crop just as harvest began. Saturated inventories of wine, coupled with cooler, wetter early fall weather resulted in some grapes not being harvested.
The county maintains pest detection traps for several crop damaging species including the gypsy moth, glassy winged sharpshooter, light brown apple moth, European grapevine moth, Japanese beetle and the Mediterranean fruit fly. None of the 140 inspected ag shipments into the county were found to contain pests.
Ag commissioner Vicki Helmar presented the findings to the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors last week.
“I wish to express my appreciation to the agricultural producers, organizations and public agencies that have cooperated in providing data for this report,” she said in prepared statement.