Marin County’s diary business, the county’s top agricultural product, continues to be hit by dropping milk prices, even with the area’s emphasis on organic products, the county Agricultural Commissioner's Office reported June 19.
The annual look at agriculture in the North Bay county showed the value of milk products produced there dropped by 10 percent last year. Taking in the value of all the crops and livestock produced in the county, last year milk accounted for 39 percent of the total. That represents a decline from the 2016 figure of 45 percent, Agricultural Commissioner Stacey Carlsen reported.
Last year’s milk production was valued at $34.1 million — 21 percent less than 2016. Organic milk’s value — stated in hundredweight, equal one-twentieth of a ton — dropped from $36.85 per hundredweight to $30.01.
The dairy production alone dropped 4.5 percent.
“The overall decline is primarily related to the reduced organic milk prices, largely due to the supply side,” Carlsen said. “There’s been some concern about large and ultralarge organic production of organic milk in other states, and that is influencing the price nationwide.”
Other areas of the crop and livestock picture in the North Bay county were better. Cattle values, which in 2016 declined by 53 percent, increased by 2 percent in 2017, the report stated. Each of the county’s 14,398 head of cattle was valued at $749 in the report. Poultry (valued at $17.8 million) and harvested pasture ($10.9 million) rounded out the higher-valued items in the report.
Among the good news in the report was a 17 percent increase in the value of fruits and vegetables ($3.9 million) and a 14 percent increase in aquaculture such as oysters ($5.4 million).
On the downside, nursery products fell 33 percent to $243,000, and silage — a mixture of raw natural materials used for winter livestock feed — was down 23 percent to $499,000.
Despite the recent pricing challenges, Carlsen praised the organic mindset in Marin agriculture. Two-thirds of Marin’s gross agricultural values are built around the organic system. There are more than 36,000 acres in organic production in Marin.
“There is a bigger statement to be made about our agriculture in Marin County in that (farmers) are taking virtually every step possible to be sustainable and produce the highest quality, high-value commodities that are safe to eat and reflects the benefits to the environment,” he said.