By John Moore, President, Kern County Farm Bureau
Harvesting can be bittersweet when the product of months of a farmer’s time and effort hangs from a tree or vine, or lays buried under the earth. The bounty estimated as farmers walk fields produces varying degrees of excitement and dread. The mood of an office can be determined by the crop estimate. A great indicator is if the owner is either growling (bad crop), or not complaining (huge crop). A bad crop and/or market is an inherent risk shouldered by producers and has created a group of individuals as resilient as the dirt they till. As farmers, ranchers, and agricultural employees weather the storm of this insane news cycle they remain focused on the cyclical nature of the industry and understand that conservative practices allow agriculturalists to live to fight another day.
Permanent crops are showing divergence in the current political and pandemic related climate. While almond prices have softened due to COVID, international buyer defaults, and large crop estimates, the permanent crop industry is seeing positive reflections in certain sectors especially the citrus and table grape market. It’s important to remember that low almond prices should mean increased movement of supply, which suggests carryover will not be as detrimental to price as previously imagined. As what seems to be a banger crop in pistachios develops, the industry awaits to see the adverse effects, if any, of COVID as it relates to pricing. Anecdotally, the permanent plantings in Kern County are producing strong crops. The markets on which farmers depend is fluctuating, which is par for the course in time of uncertainty.
A degree of diversification on a farm and ranch can protect against softening in particular markets (example: permanent plantings). Regarding row crop production, the retail sector for certain commodities has performed quite well, while those contracted to food service has suffered. A relatively mild winter and spring contributed to solid yields on many row crops including onions, potatoes and carrots, and prices to the retail market seem stable if not hardened by demand in retail. The opposite can be said for some vegetable crops that would have gone to restaurants.
The markets are reacting in many different ways, and (again, anecdotally) strong production will help Kern County and the Central Valley perpetuate its dominance in the agricultural space, which should keep some producer’s growling to a low roar for the time being. The KCFB, its Board of Directors, Staff and I wish you a successful harvest and hope to see you all in person soon.