Crop value in Ventura County hits record $1.5 billion
VENTURA – The value of Ventura County crops soared last year to a record $1.508 billion, officials announced Wednesday. The 23 percent surge is likely to rank Ventura among the top 10 counties in the state – and top 20 in the nation – in gross value of crops, officials said. “In 2006 we had no major freezes, floods or fires in agricultural areas,” said Agricultural Commissioner Earl McPhail, who released the annual Ventura County Crop Report. “Agriculture in Ventura County is very healthy. Even with the freeze this year, things have come back pretty well.” The county’s top valued crops in the 2006 report were strawberries, nursery stock, lemons, celery, tomatoes, avocados, raspberries, cut flowers, peppers and Valencia oranges. McPhail said Ventura County has focused on products that yield high returns while using limited amount of land. “The reason we gross as much as we do is because of the high cash value crops and the fact we can grow year-round,” he said. “We get the highest return per acre of any county in the state.” Linda Parks, chairwoman of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors and a longtime backer of efforts to preserve Ventura County’s agricultural land, said the results reflect local efforts to sustain county farmland. But she said Ventura County also could have more diverse farm production. “I would love to see a major campaign in the region to buy Ventura County produce, so we didn’t have to rely on trucks hauling crops in from other parts of the world,” she said. McPhail could not predict how much frost damage earlier this year would affect the 2007 crop value, but he said avocado production is likely to take a hit. In 2005, Ventura County’s crop value declined to $1.225 billion from $1.389 billion the previous year partly because of damage from heavy rainfall and a down cycle in avocado production. McPhail said the biggest challenges to the county’s agricultural economy now are recovery from the January freeze and drought conditions, obtaining enough farm labor, foreign competition, and dealing with pests that sometimes get into California from foreign agricultural products. The value of Ventura County’s largest crop – strawberries – grew from $328.6 million in 2005 to $366.3 million in 2006. McPhail said raspberries are also becoming a major crop in the county, with six growers and the value of the crop growing from $48.6 million in 2004 to $81 million last year. Other top county agricultural products were nursery stock at $263.9 million; lemons at $191.5 million; celery at $144.3 million; tomatoes at $102.4 million; and avocados at $87.4 million. Although the value of most crops increased, some agricultural products in Ventura County wound up with lower values last year compared to 2005, including Valencia and naval oranges; honey beeswax and bee pollination; field crops like oats, alfalfa and barley; timber from the Los Padres National Forest; and parsley. Copies of McPhail’s annual reports are available at www.ventura.org/agcommissioner. [email protected] (805) 583-7602160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!