MADERA — County Agricultural Commissioner Stephanie “Stevie” McNeill presented the 2018 Madera County Crop and Livestock report to the Madera County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (October 1) — and the final tally on last year’s overall ag output was impressive.
In 2018, the gross value of agricultural production in Madera County was $2,058,474,000 — an increase of $85,025,000 — or 4.31 percent — compared to 2017 production.
“This is a sign of market prices continuing to stabilize in the past three years” McNeill told supervisors. “Crop values can vary from year to year due to the variables of production, market demand, pricing and weather conditions.”
McNeill said Madera County currently ranks eleventh among the fifty-eight California counties in total agricultural production, and is among the top 20 counties nationwide (18th) for total agricultural production.
For the ninth year in a row, almonds retained the top crop rank, coming in with a value of $730,662,000, a 1 percent increase from 2017.
Increases were seen in almond bearing acreage and price per ton, but the yield was slightly down, said McNeill, who is also the County’s official Sealer of Weights and Measures.
In 2018, according to the ag commissioner, grapes moved up to become the second most-valuable crop, with pistachios claiming the third spot.
Rounding out the top five, milk and pollination ranked 4th and 5th respectively.
One crop yet to appear on the county’s annual report is industrial hemp. But that will not be the case much longer.
McNeill reported this week that the handful of hemp growers registered in the county are currently in the process of harvesting their first official crop, which county officials have recently tested to make sure the crop’s THC levels remain at or under allowable limits — “and they have been,” McNeill reported.
Industrial hemp, which does not contain enough THC to produce a “high,” is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant that is grown specifically for the industrial uses. Fast-growing industrial hemp was actually one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 10,000 years ago and California ag officials anticipate a growing number of area farmers will embrace the crop in coming years because of its potential production value per acre, which reportedly exceeds even almonds.
McNeill said she expects the USDA to soon roll out new fed-level guidelines for hemp cultivation. After that happens, she said CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) will then likely issue their own updated industrial hemp guidelines for county ag commissioners across the Golden State, all pending developments likely to pave the way for more industrial hemp production in Madera County.
McNeill said this week that she anticipates briefing supervisors “later this year or early next year” on the county’s nascent industrial hemp operations.