The gross value of Marin County agricultural production last year totaled well over $70 million, up almost 25 percent from 2010. So says Agricultural Commissioner Stacy Carlsen in his just-released annual report on livestock and agricultural crops.

Gross profits, of course, are not the same as net profits. On the other hand, the total gross was no doubt higher than $70 million because not every farmer and rancher responded to the county survey.

Holsteins by Tomales Bay. Photo by William Quirt courtesy of Marin County UC Cooperative Extension, Farm Advisor

“Milk is the long-standing premier commodity for Marin, and this year accounts for 44.7 percent of the crop report’s total value,” wrote Carlsen.

“The average market-milk price for 2011 was higher than 2010, contributing to an 18 percent increase in the overall milk value of $4,835,000,” the agricultural commissioner added.

On the other hand, “2011 was the third year milk values were not at least 50 percent of Marin County’s total agricultural-production value; the only other years were 2009 and 2010.

Commissioner Carlsen’s chart of the sources of Marin’s 2011 agricultural income. “Miscellaneous” includes goats, hogs, and rabbits.

“Field crop values for 2011 increased by $4,082,157, representing a 74.1 percent increase when compared to 2010. The increase was a result of increased pasture values and greater survey participation,” Carlsen noted.

“It is postulated that the 74.1 percent increase in value is a correction to 2010’s 38 percent decrease.” Also contributing to the increase were livestock producers who bought more feed at higher prices.

Silage harvested awaiting collection. Photo by William Quirt courtesy of Marin County UC Cooperative Extension, Farm Advisor

While the gross production value of hay was down by a measly $9,816 from 2010, the value of silage grew by a whopping $223,671.

Production of oysters, as well as clams and mussels, increased 9.3 percent or $398,566 “as production in the industry as a whole expanded, following a 10-year tend….

“Marin is California’s second-largest shellfish producer, and growers are gearing up to expand [further]… while the oyster industry elsewhere in the nation and in the state is struggling.”

Wine grape value dropped 16.7 percent to $883,312 last year because fewer grapes were harvested.

Nursery products have maintained a fairly constant total value over the past three years: $1,000,401 in 2009; $991,983 in 2010; and $1,004,764 in 2011.

Fruits and vegetables enjoyed a comfortable increase in production value last year, totaling $2,687,630 compared with $2,488,000 in 2010.

Free-range chickens. Photo by William Quirt courtesy of Marin County UC Cooperative Extension, Farm Advisor

Poultry last year brought in $253,888 compared with $278,833 in 2010, but the comparison is somewhat deceptive because the 2010 total included eggs along with fryers.

Sheep and lambs accounted for $1,084,479 of Marin’s agricultural value last year. There were fewer sheep and lambs grazing in Marin in 2011. The total number of animals was 10,912, down from 15,326 in 2010, and they produced less income: $1,084,479, down from $1,523,155 in 2010.

Sheep grazing in Point Reyes Station.

With fewer sheep around, Marin County’s production of wool correspondingly dropped, but the price of wool increased, resulting in a slight rise ($857) in production value.

Lest invasive pests damage Marin’s agriculture, the county does its best to control them biologically.

The county is attacking gorse (the yellow, prickly plant found around Tomales and elsewhere) with gorse mites and seed weevils. Bull thistle is being attacked with bull thistle gall flies.

Seed-head weevils, gall flies, hairy weevils, and peacock flies are being used against yellow star thistles. Italian thistles and purple star thistles are being targeted with seed weevils, and the list goes on.

Some 1,623 quarantine inspections of plants from infected states were carried out in the county last year. This was done by monitoring plant shipments “at Federal Express, UPS, nurseries, ethnic markets, and aquatic supply stores,” the agricultural commissioner wrote. Some “77 gypsy-moth inspections of household goods from infested states” were also conducted.

An additional 1,276 checks for glassy-winged sharpshooters were conducted on plant material from infected California counties. (Sharpshooters are insects that feed on grape vines, oleanders, citrus trees, almonds, and various other plants.) “One rejection of plant material was made, and the plants were inspected and released,” the agricultural commissioner reported.

In looking for evidence of exotic pests such as the Mediterranean fruit fly and Oriental fruit fly, Japanese beetles, light-brown apple moths, gypsy moths, European grape vine moths, and others, the county also serviced 1,172 traps.

Sudden Oak Death continues to infest Marin County. The disease is “caused by the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum,” commissioner Carlsen reported.

“Increased infestations have been detected in West Marin. Tree mortality in wildland and urban/wildland interface areas causes dramatic changes in the landscape, affecting ecosystems, increasing fire and safety hazards, and decreasing property values.”

Bay trees, like oaks, play host to the pathogen, but bays are not killed by it and merely spread it to oaks.

“The phosphonate product Agri-Fos continues to be the only registered product for control of P. ramorum on oaks,” Carlsen wrote. “It works best as a preventative by simulating the tree’s natural defense system to prevent the disease from infecting the tree.”

Graph from agricultural report

The agricultural report was reviewed by county supervisors last week and adopted. It will now be sent to the state Department of Food and Agriculture and then distributed.