Farmers in Merced and San Joaquin counties saw reduced gross income last year, mainly because of lower milk and nut prices.
Merced reported $3.59 billion for 2015, down 18.9 percent from the year before. San Joaquin was at $2.73 billion, off 15.5 percent.
The reports parallel Stanislaus County, which last month reported gross income of $3.88 billion for 2015, down 12 percent. The figures, compiled by county agricultural commissioners, do not include production costs or profit.
Almond and walnut prices were down from their surges in 2014, and dairy farmers contended with another down cycle in their business.
Paula Floriano, a longtime dairy farmer in Merced County, says she’s cutting back on her small dairy as much as possible. It costs more to get milk to the creamery, and California dairies are competing with out-of-state milk, she said.
When dairy farmers struggle, so do feed suppliers, Floriano said.
“It’s a trickle-down effect,” she said. “When we hurt, everybody hurts. Dairies are either going out or going under.”
Annie AcMoody, director of economic analysis for Western United Dairymen in Modesto, said milk prices continued to fall another $1 per 100 pounds in 2016, resulting in dairymen leaving the business altogether.
“With milk production down year to year, the dairy industry is shrinking,” she said.
Another contributing factor to Merced County agriculture was water availability, the crop report said. The 2014-15 water year still was less than average, though more than the year prior.
San Joaquin County had a sharp decline in wine grapes but large gains in cattle, cherries and eggs. It is the state’s largest producer of walnuts, so it took a major hit there, too.
Merced’s Top 10
1. Milk: $895.2 million in gross income in 2015, down from $1.44 billion in 2014
2. Almonds: $552 million, down from $790.8 million
3. Chickens: $364 million, up from $309.1 million
4. Cattle: $357.4 million, up from $350.1 million
5. Sweet potatoes: $194.3 million, down from $217 million
6. Tomatoes: $161.1 million, down from $184 million
7. Silage (feed corn): $141.2 million, down from $165.7 million
8. Eggs: $123.2 million, up from $94.1 million
9. Alfalfa: $100.5 million, down from $150 million
10. Turkeys: $68.1 million, up from $54.5 million
San Joaquin’s Top 10
1. Almonds: $433 million in gross income in 2015, down from $579 million in 2014
2. Milk: $372 million, down from $541 million
3. Grapes: $351 million, down from $481 million
4. Walnuts: $320 million, down from $500 million
5. Cherries: $181 million, up from $86 million
6. Cattle: $152 million, up from $97 million
7. Tomatoes: $149 million, down from $152 million
8. Silage (other than corn): $73 million, up from $63 million
9. Hay: $72 million, down from $113 million
10. Eggs: $62 million, up from $23.9 million
Sources: County agricultural commissioners