FAIRFIELD — Solano County agriculture had another record-breaking year in 2013 and walnuts once again led the way.
County agriculture production had a value of $348.2 million, according to the newly released 2013 Solano County Crop and Livestock report. The performance dropped the 2012 total of $343 million into second place.
The record-breaking year came despite some weather-related setbacks for some crops, county Agricultural Commissioner Jim Allan wrote to the Solano County Board of Supervisors.
“Overall low rainfall totals and late spring rains decreased production in grapes, walnuts and field crops,” Allan wrote.
The $348.2 million figure represents the price of the crops when sold by the farms and ranches. It does not reflect processing and other effects that agriculture has on the local economy.
Walnuts in 2013 had a total value of $55.4 million in Solano County, an increase of $8.6 million over 2012. There’s potential for still more growth. Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Simone Hardy said farmers are planting more walnuts and almonds in the Dixon area.
Cattle and calves came in second at $38.8 million, but fell almost $5 million from the 2012 value. A county report attributed this to a return to normal cow-calf operations after speculation in feeder calves.
Rounding out the top five, alfalfa had a value of $35.4 million, nursery products $35 million and tomatoes $29.7 million.
The crop in the top spot has shifted over the years. In 2009, Solano County’s No. 1 crop was tomatoes. In 2006, before the housing meltdown, nursery products led the way.
Crops listed in the crop report range from wheat to safflower to grapes to corn to watermelons.
“I like the fact we have so much diversity,” Hardy said.
Agriculture is the top business in rural Solano County. Still, the county ranks toward the middle among California’s 58 counties in agricultural production. It can’t compete with Central Valley counties such as Fresno County, an agricultural powerhouse that has topped $6 billion in agricultural production.
“We’re not in the billion-dollar club,” Hardy said.
But Fresno County has about 2,800 square miles in agricultural production, compared to 636 square miles in Solano County. Fresno County overall is far bigger, covering about 6,000 square miles, compared to Solano County’s 909 square miles.
Solano County is a Bay Area agricultural powerhouse, though it trails the Napa County crop value of about $662 million and Sonoma County value of about $821 million.
Hardy said Solano County agriculture’s strengths include diversity and the number of farms that have been owned by local families for several generations. The county has freeway access, water, good soils and a Board of Supervisors dedicated to keeping agriculture viable, she said.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.