Farm Beat: Almonds reach top in San Joaquin County, too

08/29/2014 4:56 PM

08/29/2014 4:57 PM

Two weeks after a report placed almonds first among Stanislaus County farm products, the nuts did the same one county to the north.

The 2013 crop report for San Joaquin County shows almonds at No. 1, with an estimated $468 million in gross income. They rose from fourth in 2012, knocking wine grapes out of the top spot.

Almonds beat out even walnuts in a county that leads the nation in production of the latter crop. And they topped milk, which has been first in most recent years.

The report was presented Tuesday to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors by Gary Caseri, interim agricultural commissioner. It put total gross income at a record $2.92 billion, up 1 percent from 2012.

Stanislaus County on Aug. 12 reported a record income of $3.66 billion last year. Merced County has not reported for 2013.

The reports reaffirm how much almonds have boomed in recent years, thanks in part to messages about their health benefits and to a growing middle class around the world. The downside, mentioned often, is that the crop could be taxing groundwater in some areas and crowding beef cattle out of rangelands east and west of the San Joaquin Valley.

Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties grow many of the same crops, but they have notable differences. San Joaquin has its premium wine grapes around Lodi, asparagus and other crops in the Delta, and a sizable cherry crop. Stanislaus produces more peaches and apricots.

For now, they both have almonds leading the way. The dairy industry, usually No. 1, had a decent 2013 but could not keep up with the nuts.

It’s worth noting that San Joaquin’s top four crops were somewhat bunched together, between $429 million and $468 million. Not so in Stanislaus, where almonds grossed $1.13 billion versus $804 million for No. 2 milk and $248 million for No. 3 walnuts.

The reports show only gross income, not production costs or profit. Nonetheless, they affirm that agriculture still is going strong in this part of the Valley, as long as the water can stretch.

The San Joaquin report is at www.sjgov.org/agcomm. For good measure, it includes a brief description of the almond and walnut industries. The Stanislaus County report is at www.stanag.org.

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