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California's Fresno County has its first billion-dollar grape crop

For the first time ever, California's Fresno County grape production surpassed $1.1 billion — the first billion-dollar crop in the county's history. Overall, agricultural production in Fresno County totaled more than $6.58 billion, showing a 3.9 percent decrease from 2011's $6.89 billion, according to the Fresno County Department of Agriculture 2012 Agricultural Crop & Livestock Report.

"Once again, Fresno County farmers and ranchers have shown their ability to produce through the many adversities thrown at them," Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau chief executive officer, said in a press release. "Our community must not, however, mistake that this industry and the backbone of our economy will always be here. Political decisions made today and in the future will ultimately decide the fate of California and Fresno County agriculture. We must have land, a reliable water supply, labor, access to markets, etc. to continue providing the nutritious products our farmers and ranchers put on plates around the world."

Fresno County's agricultural strength rests with its diversity. With more than 400 commercial crops produced in Fresno County, it's a given that some years will be good for some and poor for others. Increases were seen in several segments, including seed crops, fruit and nut crops, and industrial crops. Decreases were seen in field crops and vegetable crops.

"Of utmost importance, it must be emphasized that the values in this report reflect gross values only and do not in any manner reflect net income or loss to the producers," said Fresno County Acting Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer of Weights & Measures Les Wright. "The monetary values reflect the first point-of-sale dollar amount that a grower or rancher receives. It does not factor in the outgoing costs to produce the commodity, which continue to rise."

The annual crop report provides a chance to examine changes in crop acreage and yields. Within the past 20 years alone, there have been significant changes in some of the county's major crops. For instance, in 1992, pistachios were ranked 30 and valued at $566,300. In 2012, the crop was ranked number eight, was valued at $195.9 million and accounted for 34,001 harvested acres.

Another significant change is evident with peaches. In just one year, peaches have risen from the number 15 crop to number nine. In 2012, peaches were valued at $169.8 million and accounted for 17,582 harvested acres.

Grapes have remained number one on the county's top 10 crop list since 2002, when they were valued at $400.255 million and accounted for 227,636 acres. In 2012, grapes were valued at $1.106 billion and accounted for 255,114 acres.

"Without the cooperation and help from the growers, ranchers and industry associations of Fresno County, this report could not be produced," said Wright. "I would like to extend my sincere thanks for their participation and sharing of data that resulted in this report."

Copies of the report are available online at www.fcfb.org or via the county Department of Agriculture Web site at www.co.fresno.ca.us.