According to an industry report unveiled Tuesday, the value of Monterey's County's top economic engine, agriculture, came down in 2018. The gross value of ag commodities grown reached $4.258 billion in 2018, which is a 3.7 percent decrease from 2017.
“Farming truly is a gamble from year to year,” said Norm Groot, Monterey County Farm Bureau executive director. “Each year’s crop report depends on market pricing, consumer trends, the climate and weather and, of course, production supply.” Aside from the stresses noted by the Farm Bureau executive director, other forces continue to take a toll on the ag industry in Monterey County, such as trade, labor and immigration issues.
A shortage of the skilled-labor force has an effect on ag production such as how much acreage is farmed, and how the produce will be harvested according to officials. Trade disagreements, tariffs and threats of rounding up immigrants also take a toll on the Monterey County ag industry.
Leaf lettuce remains number one crop
The top four spots remained unchanged with leaf lettuce being the number one crop with a value of $733 million but sustaining an 11.6% decrease from 2017 due in large part to the reduction in romaine lettuce production. That reduction was in response to outbreaks of E. coli infections that resulted in Food Safety Alerts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Monterey County farmers saw romaine sales fall 24% in one year,” said Groot.
Strawberries continued to hold the number two spot with a value of $698 million and a 1.9% increase over the previous year. That increase resulted mostly from improved pricing for strawberries destined for processing.
Third on the list was head lettuce, posting a $459 million value, a decrease of 8.6% caused by decreases in production and pricing.
Broccoli held onto the fourth position with a value of $388 million, a 5.2% decrease from 2017. Rounding out the top 10 are wine grapes, $247 million; cauliflower, $209 million; miscellaneous vegetables, $205 million; nursery, $204 million; celery, $145 million; and spinach, $143 million.
The ag commissioner pointed out the report reflects the gross value of ag commodities grown in the county and not the costs associated with labor, field preparation, planting, irrigating, harvesting, distribution, and other production activities.