California’s Food and Agricultural Code requires each county to submit an Annual Crop report to the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture. This report provides the gross value of agricultural commodities provided in a given county, not the net return for producers.
Mendocino County’s 2021 Crop Report was assembled by the county’s Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Aaron Hult and accepted by the Board of Supervisors this week.
The Crop Report, though chock full of seemingly disparate data points, proves an illuminative document that sheds light on the health of Mendocino County’s economy and the evolution of local agriculture.
Mendocino County’s total gross agricultural value dropped 10% between 2020 and 2021. In 2020, the total gross value was $222,875,410. In 2021, the total gross value was $200,556,316. This means the total value of the county’s agricultural abundance lost over $22 million in value.
The Crop Report noted that the agriculture sector was still being tossed about by the labor shortages and supply chain kinks of the COVID-19 era. Why would 2021 see a 10% drop in total gross value as compared to 2021? 2020 was an economy only partially affected by the pandemic with a significant amount of that year unencumbered by lockdown policies. In contrast, every day of 2021 saw California’s pandemic response running full bore and the global economy in upheaval. The omnipresence of COVID complications could have contributed to Mendocino County’s 10% devaluation.
In 2021, wine grapes reigned supreme as the county’s leading commodity valuing $84,484,842. Similar to the county’s overall agricultural value, wine grapes saw a marked drop losing 28.2% of their gross value when compared to 2020.
In true Mendocino County fashion, the timber industry proved to be an enduring facet of the local economy as 2021’s second leading commodity. Similar to wine grapes, timber’s gross “at mill” value in 2021 ($67,128,681) was a 28.5% decrease from 2020’s total gross value ($93,855,560). In 2021, Mendocino County was the Golden State’s 7th timber producer by volume providing 4.8% of the state’s total timber harvest.
Despite measurable losses in gross value throughout Mendocino County’s agricultural sectors, many positive data points emerged in 2021 The country’s fruit and nut sector actually saw a 3.9% increase in gross value from the previous year with a combined total of $96,478,985. Apple production was up 8.4%. Pear production was up 14.5%. The valuation of the county’s cattle production in 2021 was $17,498,400, a 1.4% increase from 2020.
We must make note of a glaring omission from Mendocino County’s Crop report: cannabis. During the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, December 13, 2022, multiple parties spoke about the dearth of data regarding cannabis’s value in the county.
Attached to the crop report agenda item was a memo from Mendocino County’s Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures that explained why there was a void of cannabis information. It reads, “Due to the error inherent in this methodology and the lack of certainty, as well as the lack of participation in surveys, we do not feel at this time that presenting an estimated value of production is appropriate to include in the County’s Agricultural Crop Report.”
2nd District Supervisors Mo Mulheren said that it was “disappointing we’re unable to have a cannabis crop report.” She asserted that data regarding cannabis’s total gross value is important when communicating with the public about the industry’s influence on the local economy.
5th District Supervisor Ted Williams expressed concern that attempts by the county to survey cannabis cultivators to gather data for a crop report proved fruitless with only two responding out of a pool of 1300. Williams suggested the most reliable way for the county to gather data would be by requiring self-reporting.
Michael Katz, the Executive Director of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, shot back telling the board that MCA had provided the agriculture department with approximately two dozen, anonymized responses and asked why those data points weren’t included in the county’s total. Katz went on to suggest that the lack of survey respondents was a reflection of the cannabis industry’s trust in Mendocino County’s cannabis oversight.
For those interested in the finer points of 2021’s Mendocino County Crop Report, the entirety of the report can be read below:2021-Crop-Report-Final-Edits