Record-breaking year for Fresno County growers

FRESNO, Calif.

2011 marked the first time Ag production in Fresno County topped $6 billion. But experts say the growth won't be sustained this year.

Crop diversity has helped Fresno County secure its spot at the top of U.S. Ag production. More than 400 crops are grown here. Many of them like grapes and citrus are in high demand overseas.

Fresno County Ag Commissioner Carol Hafner delivered the 2011 Ag report to the board of supervisors on Tuesday. Farmers received $6.8 billion for their produce last year. Crop production was up almost 16%. But the figure doesn't reflect labor, fuel or feed costs.

Fresno County Ag Commissioner Carol Hafner said, "All categories of commodities with the exception of nursery and seed products increased this year mainly, in my opinion is due because we had 80 percent water."

With more water available less acreage were taken out of production last year.

Ryan Jacobsen with the Fresno County Farm Bureau explained, "We saw more acres planted simply because we had a water allocation that reflected the ability to do that. Obviously for 2012 we're not expecting to see a number close to this."

This year Jacobsen says farmers face just a 40 percent water delivery because of dry conditions. Fresno County's top five crops stayed the same, grapes worth $961 million, almonds, tomatoes, poultry and milk. But the Valley Ag industry also saw resurgence in cotton last year because of water availability.

Hafner said, "The one that made the biggest move was cotton. Cotton moved from number ten to number six."

Despite the large overall number, many Valley dairies continue to struggle with high feed prices, and a spring hailstorm hurt several stone fruit growers.

Fresno County easily out-paced Ag production runner-up Tulare County by over a billion dollars.

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