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October farm update

by Chris Hinyub, published

California is routinely the second highest cotton producing state in the U.S., behind Texas. As the San Joaquin Valley's (SJV) massive cotton crop opened up earlier this month, unseasonably cold and wet weather slowed the harvest. The rain managed to knock some cotton bolls to the ground, but growers remain optimistic. Industry insiders say that last season's “rare territory” prices aren't likely to be repeated this season, but cotton prices should remain strong for the 2011-12 marketing year.

Cotton and rice crop conditions remained mostly good to excellent, according to the latest California Crop Weather report, a service of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The rice harvest continues. As for other field crops, farmers have wrapped up the corn silage harvest, while some began to reap sorghum for silage. Fall planting of wheat continued. Black-eye beans were harvested and laid out to dry.

Fruit crops have been the most affected by the recent wet weather. Some SJV raisin grape growers have reported that their late crop was beat to the ground by this week’s rain. In spite of these incidences, the raisin grape harvest progressed smoothly. Napa wine grape growers also escaped major losses of grapes still on the vine. Wine grapes remain in short supply in the Golden State. The peach, nectarine, and plum harvests are almost complete. Navel Orange growers are expecting a late start to the harvest season due to poor internal maturity. In Tulare County, the olive harvest began.

California's nut crops remain strong. Almond growers are reporting above average volumes due to heavy crop set. In several parts of the state, the walnut harvest is in high gear, while the pistachio harvest has accelerated.

The California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) is reporting that favorite fall vegetables should be in good supply as California farmers are planting more vegetables for autumn harvest.

     “Carrot acreage rose more than 30 percent, compared to a year ago, with harvest under way in the Bakersfield area. Farmers also planted 8 percent more broccoli, 4 percent more celery and 3 percent more cauliflower,” says the CFBF.

Summer vegetables including beets, bittermelon, chards, choys, eggplant, herbs, kales, lemon grass, chile peppers, tomatillos, squash, and zucchini were harvested. Valley farmers continue to harvest bell peppers, fresh market tomatoes and cucumbers.

With commodity prices rising by double digits in some counties year-over-year, it's no wonder why demand for California farmland is growing rapidly. According to Schuil and Associates, a leader in farm sales in Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties, foreign investors, pension funds, institutional funds and insurance companies are all investing millions of dollars in California agriculture for its long-term growth potential.

As co-founder Michael Schuil explains:

     “Farmland prices typically follow commodity prices; when the commodity prices are strong the farmland prices are also strong. Commodity prices for citrus, dairy, nuts, and grains are healthy; therefore prices are on the rise.”

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