Solano County records historic rise in crop value
Solano County reported a spike in agriculture production last year, with cultivation netting $407 million in gross value, according to a new report published by the county's agriculture department this week.
The report, which will be reviewed by the Solano County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, called the figure a "new record high value" that surpassed the county's previous record set in 2014 and the first time the aggregate financial value of crops in Solano County crossed the $400 million mark.
County officials said local cultivators increased the gross value of their crop by a collective $50 million — an impressive figure considering many agriculture businesses continued to be impacted by the ongoing effects of the multi-year coronavirus pandemic.
For the third year in a row, almonds were the top cash crop in Solano County, with a value marked at $71.1 million — a 40 percent increase compared to the previous year. Tomatoes, which were once the top crop in the region, came in second with a gross value of $44.1 million, county officials said.
While the cash is good now, agriculture officials warn that hard times could come pretty soon as the state continues to grapple with the emerging effects of an ongoing drought that has impacted water resources throughout California.
Still, Solano County is in a position of resiliency thanks in part to sustainable water projects that have helped agriculture producers in the region move away from a dependency on groundwater. The projects take into consideration an anticipated increase in Solano County's population coupled with additional land use locally, officials said.
That's a good thing, considering almonds and other nut-bearing fruits require a significant amount of water to help energize the crop toward growth.
Despite their significant water use, almonds are still an attractive crop for farmers because they're in high demand and are cheaper to produce. Tomato cultivation can lead to an increase in energy and pollution, which subjects them to certain regulatory laws in California —which, in turn, makes them more expensive for farmers to grow. Almonds, on the other hand, require less energy and churns out less pollution, which means there are fewer financial costs and regulations associated with their cultivation.
Nearly one-third of all crops sold in Solano County are fruit and nuts, according to the latest agriculture report. Solano County is not alone in seeing a shift away from tomatoes in favor of almonds: In 2017, the gross value of almonds surpassed tomatoes in neighboring Yolo County for the first time since officials began keeping records there.