Feedlot cattle, shown at El Toro Cattle Feed Yard in Heber in August 2020, made up a majority with the total livestock gross value of agriculture, with $427,087,000, according to the latest Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report for Imperial County released by the Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office on Tuesday, Aug. 10. | FILE PHOTO
Imperial County continues to lead the state in some agricultural commodities, despite a year dealing with COVID-19.
The total gross value of agriculture in Imperial County for 2020 was $2,026,427,000, according to the latest Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report for Imperial County released by the Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office on Tuesday, Aug. 10.
Livestock remained a large category in the county, with a gross value of $490,633,000, according to the report. Of that total, feedlot cattle made up a majority with a gross value of $427,087,000, followed by miscellaneous livestock at $43,566,000 and aquatic products like fish and algae at $19,980,000 gross value.
Miscellaneous livestock includes calves, replacement cattle, dairy animals, milk, manure/compost, sheep, wool, and California Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta show animals.
“We know that there was a disruption in processing nationwide due to the pandemic,” Agricultural Commissioner Carlos Ortiz said on Tuesday. “Some processing facilities lowered their capacity or temporarily shut down. We did see a 1.10 percent decrease in the number of head and a 5.92 percent decrease in the price per head from 2019. Field crops we also saw a decrease in value of 10.73 percent. It was due to lower market prices and a decrease in harvested acres.”
Cattle was the largest agricultural commodity in 2020. The next highest agricultural commodity was alfalfa hay at $200,441,000 and leaf lettuce at $110,052,000.
“We can see there was a decrease in overall harvested acres, by 6.29 percent, but we actually had a 0.53 percent increase in gross value, and that’s basically because of vegetables and fruit,” he said. “Sweet corn moved from No. 16 to No. 4, mainly due to better market prices.”
Vegetable and melon crops had a gross value of $895,978,000, while field crops had a gross value of $444,693,000. Other sub-industries include seed and nursery products with a gross value of $95,330,000, fruit and nut crops at $94,574,000, and apiary products at $5,219,000.
Part of the 2020 report also showed how the county compared to the rest of the state in 2019.
In 2019, Imperial County ranked No. 9 of 58 counties in the state with a gross value of agricultural production at $2.016 billion. According to the 2019-2020 review of the 2019 ag statistics by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Imperial County was the sole producer of sugar beets and the No. 1 producer of alfalfa hay, sweet corn, Sudan hay and alfalfa seed. Imperial County was among the top-five producers of cattle and calves, broccoli, carrots, spinach, vegetable, dates, wheat, cantaloupes, grapefruit, dates, cauliflower, onions, potatoes, cabbage, watermelons and honeydew melons.
There were 459,616 farmable acres in the Imperial Valley, with an additional 14,782 acres in the Bard/Winterhaven area and 7,794 acres in the Palo Verde area.
That report, based off data from 2019, showed an overall benefit to Imperial County of $4.4 billion.
In line with Imperial County’s ranking of gross value production compared to its neighbors, the Crop Report Plus highlighted the stability of Imperial County’s agricultural industry. This is determined by how many different crops a county grows, and at what proportions they are grown, and is summed up on a scale from 0.00 (wherein all crops grown were the same as any other county) to 1.00 (where all 72 crops that can be grown in California are grown in equal proportion).
Of the 20 counties consulted in building the Crop Report Plus, Imperial County scored the highest in stability, rating 0.69, making it one of the most stable places for agriculture in California.
Supervisors Hear About New Youth Program
A program to stop juveniles from entering the legal system is getting its footing.
The Imperial County Probation Department, in partnership with county Parks and Recreation, will develop an after-school and Saturday program for youths in outlying areas of Imperial County called Project 2020.
Young people in Seeley, Ocotillo, Palo Verde, Heber, Calipatria, Niland and Salton City may benefit through the offering of recreation, homework assistance, and arts and cultural activities.
The Imperial County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at its meeting Tuesday to add a supervising probation officer and four youth service specialists for the program.
“Really, what we’re doing is continuing the tradition of reaching out to our underserved communities and trying to keep young people from entering the juvenile justice system in the first place by giving them opportunities that may not exist otherwise due to perhaps their geographical location, family income, things of that sort,” Probation Chief Dan Prince said on Tuesday. “We feel that these young people should have the opportunity to do the same things as others in the community.”
Vice Chairman of the Board Jesus Escobar said he thought the program would do well for the community, but was hesitant as the funding source was grants, which aren’t set in stone.
Prince replied that the grants have been stable through the last several years, and funds are already in place should grant funding lower.
Funding for the program comes from Youth Offender Block Grant funds from the state, which are funds to provide youths with these opportunities for structured, supervised and pro-social activities after school and on weekends.