Stanislaus County ag worth $2.4 billion

Agriculture was the topic at the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday morning.

The supervisors voted unanimously to accept the 2007 Agricultural Crop Report, outlining $2.4 billion in commodity value, up more than 10 percent from the previous year.

The board also unanimously accepted a report on efforts to strengthen and protect agriculture, the county's No. 1 industry.

Those efforts over the past year have included adopting a new agricultural element to the county's general plan; adopting an ag emergency response plan that is now a model for other counties and states, according to Stanislaus Ag Commissioner Gary Caseri; and confronting threats to agriculture, including an experimental program to control medusahead grass that threatens livestock grazing areas.

Agriculture has a local "multiplier effect" of more than three, according to Ed Perry, county director of the University of California Cooperative Extension. The multiplier effect means that the $2.4 billion in commodity value paid to farmers turns over in the economy three times, as farmers buy equipment and supplies locally, crops are processed in local plants, and salespeople and processing workers spend their wages on food, housing and transportation.

The total impact on the local economy would be more than $7.2 billion with a multiplier of more than three.

"It needs to be protected and enhanced," Perry told the supervisors.

Technology plays a big part in the efforts to protect and strengthen agriculture, according to county ag officials. That includes everything from increasing the use of Web sites and electronic newsletters to communicate with farmers to using Geographic Information Systems and Global Positioning Systems for ag inspection and monitoring programs, Caseri said.

Education also plays a part, with the county partnering with California State University, Stanislaus, and Modesto Junior College to create ag internships, and making environmental quality a major component of research and education programs, Perry said.

One conclusion of county agriculture officials is that the ag industry isn't adopting new technology and practices as rapidly as they had anticipated, Caseri said.

In keeping with the agriculture theme, Supervisor Jim DeMartini urged the board to oppose Proposition 2, an initiative on the November ballot calling for more humane treatment of farm animals. It would require poultry and livestock growers to provide enough room for animals to spread their wings in a cage or turn around in a pen.

"This has a potential to be very detrimental to the ag industry," DeMartini said. "It has a potential to drive the egg industry out of California. It's not founded on any good sense. It accomplishes nothing."

County Chief Executive Officer Rick Robinson said Proposition 2 will be brought up at a future board meeting.

Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at or 578-2349.

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