Kern County ranks No. 2 in U.S. crop values for 1st time

Kern County ranks No. 2 in U.S. crop values for 1st time
Citrus crops are seen in Kern County, Calif., in an April 2012 file photo.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Kern County is the nation's No. 2 crop county for the first time.

The Kern County Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards released its annual report Tuesday, showing two big milestones: the No. 2 ranking and more than $6 billion in gross crop value for the first time.

Fresno County remains the most prolific agricultural county in the United States, but Kern County squeezed by Tulare County, based on gross value of all commodities produced. Monterey County came in at No. 4 in the state and nation last year, according to Glenn Fankhauser, co-assistant director of the Kern County agriculture department.

With the top of the county rankings dominated by California, it's no wonder the Golden State ranks 30 percent or 40 percent above any other state in terms of agricultural production, Fankhauser said.

If Kern County were a state, it alone would rank among the top 20 states for crop values, according to Fankhauser.

Kern County has long flip-flopped with Monterey County for the No. 3 and 4 rankings, but Fankhauser said he expects Kern to maintain its growth and annually compete for No. 2 or 3 with Tulare.

Does Kern County have a realistic shot at overtaking Fresno County?

"Before, it wasn't in our sites, but its more possible than ever," Fankhauser said.

Grape values drove the Kern County increase - 11 percent from 2011 - more than any other commodity. Grape values in Kern County rose about 50 percent, thanks to better market prices and better yields on less acreage, Fankhauser said.

The top 10 Kern commodities by value in 2012:

1. Grapes - $1,498,987,000
2. Almonds, including by-products - $821,857,000
3. Milk, market and manufacturing - $690,062,000
4. Citrus, fresh and processing - $620,350,000
5. Pistachios - $486,213,000
6. Cattle and calves - $382,913,000
7. Carrots, fresh and processing - $350,439,000
8. Hay, alfalfa - $213,466,000
9. Cotton, including processing cottonseed - $147,637,000
10. Potatoes, fresh and processing  - $85,102,000