Agriculture grows despite ailing economy, states county report

The region’s agriculture report offers a ray of sunshine in today’s cloudy economy, reports the county.

The 2010 Crop Statistics and Annual Report released by the San Diego County Department of Agriculture, Weights & Measures (AWM) shows the value of agriculture increased 7 percent over 2009 figures. By contrast, 2009 figures were down slightly from the year before.

The overall value of agriculture in 2010 for San Diego County came in at $1.65 billion despite a slight decrease in the amount of acreage used for crops, higher water costs and the slow economy.

For the second year in a row, ornamental trees and shrubs ranked as the number one crop in the region and boasted a 14.69 percent increase in value over the year before. Indoor flowering and foliage plants came in at number two, rising in value slightly from 2009. All nursery products combined accounted for two-thirds of the total value of San Diego County agriculture, a figure that came in at $1.1 billion.

“Agriculture in San Diego County is one of the drivers of our local economy,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Horn. “As a farmer, I know firsthand the struggles we face with less water and fewer acres. Our industry is evolving and I believe that a thriving agricultural community is a benefit to all of San Diego.”

Avocados remained the number one fruit crop and increased in value nearly 13 percent despite water restrictions and a 22 percent drop in acreage.

Pests, plant diseases and invasive weeds present ongoing challenges for farmers, and 2010 was no different. AWM fought Mediterranean fruit fly and Asian citrus psyllid infestations and found 122 pests of significant economic importance such as magnolia white scale, lesser snow scale, red imported fire ants and light brown apple moths.

Pest detector dogs Drake and Friday are trained to sniff out agricultural pests in incoming packages. In 2010, they found 747 unmarked parcels, 172 over the prior year. Eight of the packages contained pests.

Invasive weeds such as spotted knapweed, purple loosestrife and perennial pepperweed also threatened farmland. Overall, AWM removed 271 acres of invasive weeds in 2010.

The top 10 crops in the county in 2010 and their value are:

1.  Ornamental trees and shrubs, $418,841,523

2.  Indoor flowering and foliage plants, $292,500,000

3.  Bedding plants, color, $214,941,018

4.  Avocados, $147,051,864

5.  Tomatoes, $86,774,565

6.  Eggs, chickens, $75,904,920

7.  Lemons, $39,885,636

8.  Herbaceous perennials, $26,235,355

9.  Cacti and succulents, $25,153,520

  1. Foliage, $19,986.120

Among highlights in the 2010 Crop Statistic and Annual Report:

• San Diego County has the 17th largest agricultural economy in the country.

• San Diego County farmers produce 44 crops valued at more than $1 million dollars annually.

• San Diego County has 6,687 farms, more than any other county in the United States. Sixty eight percent of those are one to nine acres in size.

• Nearly 27 percent of all San Diego County farms are operated by women.

• Statewide, San Diego County is in the top five counties for producing cucumbers, mushrooms, tomatoes, boysenberries, strawberries, grapefruit, Valencia oranges, tangelos and tangerines, honey and eggs.

For more information on the 2010 Annual Crop Report, visit www.sdcounty.ca.gov/awm/.

   
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