Agriculture values blossomed for the third year out of the past four and grew close to $1.8 billion, a height they last reached in 2014, in the County of San Diego’s annual Crop Report.
The value of all agriculture crops and commodities rose about 1.5% in the new Crop Report that covers the 2019 growing season, from $1.76 billion in 2018 to $1.79 billion.
Total agriculture values also increased in the 2016 and 2017 reports, before slipping by one-quarter of 1% in last year’s 2018 report.
This year’s increase was fueled in large part by a 5.8% increase, from $323 million in 2018 to $342 million in 2019, in the overall values of fruits and nuts, a category that includes three of the top 10 crops: avocados, lemons, and oranges.
Ornamental trees and shrubs, which have been the top crop in San Diego County for the past 11 Crop Reports, since 2009, continued to increase in overall value, increasing by just .6%, but to $445 million its highest total over that time.
The rest of the annual top 10 crops remained similar to previous years, although some crop categories were changed slightly. For example, this year’s number two crop, bedding plants, color, and herbaceous perennials, like flowers and herbs, was combined with cacti and succulents and had a total value of $399 million.
The third-ranked crop, indoor flowering, and foliage plants earned a total value of $291 million. The fourth-ranked, and possibly San Diego’s most famous crop, avocados, increased in value by nearly 16% and $19 million, from $121 million in 2018 to $140 million.
The annual Crop Report is compiled by the County’s Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures and can be seen online. The report provides a yearly snapshot of an industry that remains a staple of the region’s economy despite challenges like drought, rising water costs, fires, freezes, and pests.
San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors has taken several actions in recent years to boost agriculture, including creating a boutique winery ordinance to promote the creation of small wineries; approving a new beekeeping ordinance that allows more beekeeping while protecting the public; adopting an agricultural easement program that preserves agricultural space; streamlining regulations for things like cheese-making, agritourism, and onsite horticultural sales.
Supervisor Jim Desmond’s Fifth District, home to a lot of the county’s agricultural land, said agriculture is an important part of the economy.
“Over the last year, we have seen how essential farming is in San Diego County,” Desmond said.
Other interesting highlights from the 2019 Crop Report include:
The agriculture industry continues to do more with less, increasing in total value while working fewer acres. In 2019 total agriculture values increased 1.5% while reporting 234,477 acres in production. That was 3.3% fewer acres reported in 2018 and the fewest number of acres reported in production in 17 years — since 2002.
The increase to $140.1 million for avocados, was that crop’s largest value since 2014.
One of the largest percentage increases was for “Field, other,” which included a relatively new crop, industrial hemp. The category increased a whopping 373% from $794,625 in 2018 to $3,760,517.
Wine grapes saw its third year of double-digit percent increases, rising 21.5% from $4,591,032 in 2018 to $5,580,300. Wine grapes became a trendy crop and soared by over 500% in 2012, two years after the Board of Supervisors approved the Boutique Winery Ordinance to promote the creation of small wineries.