Crop Report Cover
Crop Report Cover

2020 Annual Crop Statistics Released

Author: Martin Settevendemie, County Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer
Date: 8/10/2021 3:18 PM

San Luis Obispo County releases 2020 Annual Crop Report - Honoring Essential Agricultural Workers. Despite the challenges experienced in a year heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, San Luis Obispo County agriculture reports over $978 million in overall crop value for 2020.

The overall crop value recorded for 2020 is $978,675,000, down just slightly from 2019 and down over 5% from the record high amount recorded in 2018. Although the overall value was relatively flat on the year, the COVID-19 pandemic created a variety of challenges for the local agricultural industry.

This figure represents only commodity gross values and does not reflect net profits received by local agricultural producers. Also, reported values do not include multipliers related to secondary economic benefits.

The top ten commodities by value in 2020 were:

1. Strawberries

2. Wine Grapes - all

3. Avocados

4. Cattle and Calves

5. Vegetable Transplants

6. Broccoli

7. Cauliflower

8. Head Lettuce

9. Cut Flowers

10. Lemons

Animal Industry:

The total value of the county’s animal industry increased over 13% in 2020, based on significant increases in cattle sales. With prices holding relatively steady, the gross value in the cattle and calves sector increased by over 21% due to a substantial 28% increase in the number of head sold compared to 2019.

Field Crops:

The overall value of field crops produced in the county fell significantly in 2020 with a 16% reduction in gross value stemming from a variety of both market and weather-related factors. Overall grain hay value fell slightly due to decreases in per acre yield and pricing. Planted acreage of high-value alfalfa fell significantly, with a 29% decrease in total production area in 2020, as growers shifted toward other crops.

Fruit and Nut Crops:

Although strawberries reached their highest annual value in county history, wine grapes experienced considerable challenges in 2020 bringing the overall Fruit & Nut sector value down slightly. With both prices and yields down considerably due to a combination of challenges, including reduced demand, oversupply in the market, and concerns about possible smoke taint from late season wildfires, the overall value for wine grapes decreased 14% from the previous year and marked their lowest value in the past five years.

Despite problems in the wine grape industry and the industry wide challenges in market demands experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall value of the Fruit & Nut sector was buoyed by the high yields of avocados, lemons, strawberries, and English walnuts.

Nursery Products:

Nursery values fell substantially in 2020 as local growers were impacted by reduced demand, especially for commercial vegetable transplants and cut flowers. Overall value in this sector decreased nearly 6% from the previous year based largely on COVID related changes in market demands. However, certain segments within the nursery industry fared surprisingly well, as those growers who produce bedding plants, indoor and outdoor ornamentals, and direct-to-consumer vegetable transplants flourished due to increased consumer demand from home gardeners.

Vegetable Crops:

Vegetable growers experienced a chaotic year in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic weighed heavily upon consumer demand and market trends. Despite challenging markets during the early stages of the pandemic, demand for vegetables rebounded later in the season after the initial shock of restaurants closing around the country subsided.

Favorable weather conditions also helped vegetable growers withstand the challenges brought on by the unprecedented nature of a global pandemic.

Leaf lettuce values were up overall for 2020 due to both strong demand and solid prices late in the year, and head lettuce value was up slightly on the year due to excellent per acre yields. A variety of other vegetable crops also benefited from the favorable growing conditions, leading to increases in overall value despite the unpredictable consumer demand.

The current 2020 Annual Crop Report and historical Annual Reports from 1928 through 2020 can be viewed in the Crop Report Library.