Drought casts shadow over Sonoma County agriculture
The lingering drought continues to impact agriculture in Sonoma County, a new report concludes, with the dairy and livestock industries continuing to pay a heavy price.
In the 2021 crop report, the county reported livestock and poultry product values decreased 21% compared to 2020. Production of milk, both organic and conventional products, dropped though the value per unit for the milk increased by 10.8% for organic milk and 13.7% for conventional milk.
“Our county’s organic ranchers can find themselves under greater stress because their animals are required to be raised on pasture for their first six months In 2021, local ranchers reported that not only were their own irrigation ponds losing water faster than it was replenished, but those relying on recycled municipal water had their rations cut by up to 70%. As a result of this, some ranchers chose to sell portions of their herds to relieve the pressure of putting them out to pasture.” the report stated.
“Continued drought stress” also played a part in the county’s production of apples, which decreased 23%. Apple prices per ton decreased 11%, resulting in an overall decrease in value of 24% compared to 2020.
Value of the crop was placed at $3.8 million in 2020, declining to $2.9 million last year.
Wine growers also had to adapt to weather as well as the drought, but overall the county reported the total value of its most valuable crop in 2021 was $541 million, up from $357.5 million the year before.
Tonnage saw a return to historical averages with an increase of 39.1% from 2020 to 206,011 tons while value per ton for winegrapes increased to $2,626 per ton. As a result, total winegrape value increased by 51% compared to 2020.
Based on a survey of more than 1,000 producers, the report stated the total value for 2021 of the county’s crops was $811.4 million, which represents a 19.2% increase over the 2020 crop value of $680.6 million.
The county clarified that the findings reflects the gross production values and does not account for costs such as production, processing and bringing the commodity to market.
“The report also does not include net farm income, rather it is intended for community use in economic development, tourism activities, financing and identifying historical trends in local agricultural production.”
The dairy industry report mirrors somewhat Marin County where the Journal reported in June that Marin County’s conventional milk production value was up 7% but the organic milk sector — traditionally, a strong point for Marin farmers — was down 8% in 2020.
Only a year before, in 2020, the county had reported that organic milk value from county producers came in at $142.4 million, up from $113.5 million in the previous year. Dairy farmers also saw a rise in value of conventional milk totaling $15.2 million, as opposed to $13.5 million from 2019.