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County ag production value plunged 10.5 percent in 2000

April 18, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The value of agricultural production in Imperial County dropped 10.5 percent in 2000 from the previous year, according to the annual crop report released Tuesday by the county Agricultural Commissioner's Office.

Total production value for 2000 was $919.6 million. The revised crop production value for 1999 was more than $1 billion.

The only increase in value was in apiary products, the result of an increase in the number of hives used for honey and pollination. The value of apiary products rose 5.5 percent.

The report states fruit and nut crops remained "fairly" stable for the year.

However, decreases in value occurred throughout all other categories.

Vegetable and melon crops dropped in value by 20.7 percent, livestock by 1.9 percent and seed and nursery crops by 9.5 percent.

Livestock saw a decrease in cattle slaughtered while the crop decreases were due in part to lower prices and lower yields.

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The report further states there was an acreage shift in the last year from higher-value vegetable crops, which dropped 15 percent, to the more stable field crops, which rose 5.7 percent.

Cattle remained the top commodity in the Imperial Valley, followed by alfalfa, lettuce, carrots and sugar beets.

According to the report, agricultural production has a significant affect on the Valley. For ever $1,000 of total gross value produced, $345 of personal income is generated in agricultural-related jobs.

The local farming community has been facing low market prices for at least three years.

Farmers have said depressed markets have made it difficult to run their farms successfully.

They have said growing costs such as the increase in the minimum wage in California have affected their businesses.

There is hope for Imperial Valley agriculture as work continues on a beef-processing plant in Brawley.

Local agricultural leaders have said once that beef plant starts operation it could help the local cattle industry and other areas of agriculture.

There is work being done to attract the dairy industry to the Imperial Valley, which could prove a spark to the local agriculture economy.

Sugar beet growers are working with the University of California Desert Research & Extension Center to study the possibility of raising sugar cane in the Imperial Valley.

Those involved have said sugar cane can grow in the Imperial Valley and become a stable commercial crop.

Still, farmers have said there are few signs the depressed markets is going to significantly change in the near future.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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