Freeze puts a chill on Solano ag value year after record high

Freezing temperatures during the 2022 almond bloom in February is being blamed for the anticipated almond crop loss. (Express file photo)

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By Todd R. Hansen
McNaughton Media

Solano County supervisors barely had time to celebrate a record $407.64 million 2021 Crop and Livestock Report when they were told that 70–80 percent of the county’s largest crop is going to be lost this year.

“This sets a new record high value surpassing the 2014 peak of ($378.54 million) — a remarkable feat considering the ongoing effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on supply chains, production costs and agriculture workforce,” Ed King wrote in the introduction to the 2021 Solano County Crop and Livestock Report. “Moreover, persistent dry conditions saw the entire county is in a state of exceptional drought from late-May into mid-November.”

King presented the report to the board last Tuesday. The 2020 value was $357.16 million.

Three nights of freezing temperatures during the 2022 almond bloom is being blamed for the anticipated loss, King said.

Almonds, which has been the top crop for three straight years, is the primary reason the county experienced the record high in gross value for its 95 commodities during 2021.

That diversity is also a factor to the overall success, and clearly the Solano Project water resource out of Lake Berryessa is also a reason Solano is not feeling the same effects of the drought as other areas of the state, which had 395,000 acres left fallow due to the lack of water.

“Reliable Solano Project (Berryessa) water supplies have helped sustain local agriculture through these times of drought,” the report states. “Consistent year-to-year surface water availability has also supported recent cropping transitions in the county, allowing growers to adapt to market and industry trends — evident in this year’s crop report value, which crested $400 million for the first time.”

Those shifts have favored permanent crops, “with significant increases in new almond orchards and a growing number of pistachio and olive plantings offsetting corresponding declines in field crop acreage and production.”

The recent groundwater sustainability report also shows Solano County is in much better shape than other parts of the state, especially the Central Valley.

The almond crop experienced a 40 percent increase in value over 2020, for a value of $71.12 million.

Processing tomatoes, at $44.11 million, remained the county’s second most valuable crop, and will likely move to the top of the list for 2022, followed by nursery products ($43.09 million), cattle and calves ($31.88 million) and alfalfa/hay ($28.61 million).

Wine grapes climbed to sixth from seventh with a value of $25.44 million, while walnuts dropped from sixth to seventh with a value of $20.31 million.

Walnuts were hurt by the late October rains that hit during harvest. Growers had hoped to escape serious problems, but King said an estimated 20 percent of the crop was damaged.

Sheep and lambs moved into the top 10, showing up in the ninth spot with a gross value of $8.92 million. Prunes rounded out the top 10 with a value of 7.22 million, the report states.

The greater than $50 million increase from 2020 to 2021 follows a 4 percent decline from 2019 to 2020.

“This drop marks one of the steeper annual regressions in crop and livestock values during the past 20 years following downturns of the economic recession in 2009 (-14 percent) and drought in 2015 (-7 percent). The COVID-19 pandemic, re-emerging drought conditions and devastating wildfires contributed to turbulent markets, supply chain disruptions, food service closures, and crop losses — all of which affected crop and livestock values,” King notes in the report.

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