By SCOTT PESZNECKER and GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER
Agriculture brought $30.8 million to Calaveras County last year a 16.5 percent increase from 2001.
Those numbers came from the recently released 2002 Report of Agriculture, compiled by Calaveras County Agricultural Commissioner Jearl Howard.
The increase was due mostly to an increased timber harvest, Howard said. Also, the trees cut down were worth more; the harvest's total value was $13.1 million, up from $8.2 million the year before.
Nursery crops and fruits and nuts made small gains. Livestock and poultry product profits increased from $700,000 in 2001 to $907,000 this year.
However, the sale of actual livestock and poultry fell from $9.4 million in 2001 to $8.4 million this year, and field crop and bee product enterprises experienced small losses.
Tuolumne County also saw increased profits from agricultural endeavors in 2001. The 6 percent rise in Tuolumne County profits last year also came mainly from timber sales.
While loggers and Forest Service officials said they appreciate the increase in logging, they said they'd like to see more wood come off the Stanislaus National Forest.
"Even though there's a 10-percent increase, we're not really seeing what's sustainable on the Stanislaus," said Stacey Martin, vice president of Sonora's Sierra Resource Management. "The revenue should be substantially higher."
Martin said she is looking forward to help from the Bush Administration, which has proposed relaxing logging restrictions in the Sierra Nevada.
But Jerry Snyder, spokesman for the Stanislaus National Forest, said he doesn't think those new rules would help much.
"It seems like there can be an extremely large increase in timber products in the future," Snyder said. "But we have not yet reached the previous possible threshold for timber harvest" the one allowed under the stricter guidelines.
Snyder said the Forest Service has had problems getting bids for some of the projects it wanted cut.
"I don't think it was as large an increase as we might have projected, because some of the sales didn't go through as anticipated," Snyder said. "But we expect an even larger increase this year."
Contact Genevieve Bookwalter at gbookwalter@ uniondemocrat.com.