When county crop report gives you lemons

Chino Farm at Rancho Santa Fe/dweisman

Agriculture values sprouted for a second straight year in the annual County Crop Report, helped by 20-plus percent increases in the value of lemons, miscellaneous vegetables and tomatoes, and a continued renaissance for oranges.

Overall, total agriculture values in San Diego County rose about 1.6 percent to more than $1.77 billion in the 2017 Crop Report released this week. Last year, crop values increased 2.63 percent after two straight years of decline.

Total production values in the new report were led by the same major agricultural players that have dominated the Top 10 list for the last decade — ornamental trees and shrubs like crepe myrtles and bottle brushes; indoor plants like bromeliads and poinsettias; and garden flowers like marigolds and snapdragons.

The Crop Report covered the 2017 growing season. Some highlights, compared with previous reports, included:

  • More than one half of the total value of all production, 58 percent, or roughly $1.03 billion, came from three crops — Ornamental Trees and Shrubs; Indoor Flowering and Foliage Plants; and Bedding Plants, Color and Herbaceous Perennials.
  • Citrus values overall increased 17.6 percent to $153.4 million. Oranges, which appeared in the Top 10 Crop list last year for the first time in eight years, increased by 22 percent and remained at number nine in the list of top crops.
  • Cactuses and Succulents, which had jumped from a $43 million crop in 2014 to $83 million by 2016, decreased slightly but remained strong at $77.4 million.
  • Wine grapes increased by 28.3 percent to $3.85 million after two years of decline. Wine grapes became a trendy crop, soaring by over 500 percent in 2012, two years after the County Board of Supervisor approved a “Boutique Winery Ordinance” to promote the creation of small wineries.
  • Avocados, the county’s best-known crop, dropped by 10.3 percent to roughly $122 million.
  • Tomatoes values increased by 23 percent to $52.9 million, but remain below the annual $80 million to $90 million values they racked up in the five years from 2009 to 2014.

The crop reports, which can be seen online, are yearly snapshots of an industry that has been an important staple of San Diego County’s total economy, but one that has faced challenges, including droughts, the cost of water, fires, freezes, pests and diseases.

Despite those challenges, total agriculture production values have increased in seven of the last 10 years.

San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors has taken several actions in recent years to boost agriculture, including: creating a boutique winery ordinance; approving a new beekeeping ordinance that allows more beekeeping while protecting the public; adopting an agricultural easement program that preserves agricultural space; streamlining regulations for things like cheese-making, agri-tourism and onsite horticultural sales.

Here’s a look at the 2017 Crop Report’s Top 10 Crops:

2017 Crop Report Top 10 Crops

For more information, go to the County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures’ Crop Statistics web page.

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