When the agriculture commissioner, Marilyn Kinoshita, announced Tulare County’s production numbers a few weeks ago it was assumed that Tulare County would be the number one agriculture producer in the nation. That assumption was confirmed last week when Fresno County released its 2014 production numbers.
Fresno County’s agriculture production for 2014 was $7.03 billion, which set a record for the county, but did not surpass Tulare County or Kern County. Tulare County produced $8.1 billion, while Kern County’s agriculture production was valued at $7.5 billion.
Tulare County’s securing the number one spot was not uniformly met with elation. Tricia Stever Blattler, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, said that Fresno’s reduced numbers are due to the drought, which is not something to celebrate. Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau chief executive officer, said he was frustrated because he felt that Fresno County’s production numbers should be two or three billion dollars more than it is. This sentiment was partially confirmed by a recent Fresno State study that showed how the drought was affecting the San Joaquin Valley. Researchers estimated that losses in farm revenue to be as much as $3.3 billion throughout the Valley.
Fresno has much more arable land than Tulare County and has dominated the number one spot for years. But Fresno had to fallow 250,000 productive acres. Another contributing factor was poor prices for field crops. Still, the drought wasn’t the only reason that Tulare County overtook Fresno and Kern County for the second year in a row. While Kern and Fresno counties top crops are grapes and almonds, Tulare County has significantly more dairies and milk prices experienced record highs in 2014.
Fresno Agriculture Commissioner Les Wright said he believes that if Fresno County had water they would be ranked number 1 or 2.
But, Tulare County’s dairy production eclipsed their number one crop, almonds, by more than a billion dollars. Even without the effects of the drought, the number one spot would have still have been a horse race between all three counties.