As goes the wine grape, so go the fortunes of Napa Valley agriculture.
With grapes equaling nearly 98 percent of the county’s ag
production in 2011, a reduced grape crush last year pushed down the
harvest value of all of Napa County’s agricultural production.
Tallied at $431 million, the 6.7 percent drop in gross
value of Napa County’s farming industry “was primarily due to a decrease
in the wine grape tonnage crushed,” Agricultural Commissioner Dave
Whitmer noted in a report presented to the Board of Supervisors on
Tuesday. The county’s crops declined in value by $31 million in 2011.
Although the value of olive, vegetable, floral and
nursery production also declined last year, it was the significant drop
in grape tonnage that brought the total value of agricultural production
down, Whitmer said.
The total value of the 2011 crush was $423 million, down
slightly more than $30 million, or 6.7 percent, the same percentage of
decline as the total 2001 ag crop.
The value of last year’s grape crop was 3 percent off the
10-year average of $437 million, Whitmer reported. The drop in tonnage
was tied to the vicissitudes of Mother Nature.
The 2011 wine grape crush weighed in at 121,872 tons —
harvested from 43,581 acres of vines — which was a decline of 16,970
tons, a decrease of 12.2 percent, the report indicates.
For the past several years, Whitmer points out, the top
three grape varieties in bearing acres in the county have been cabernet
sauvignon, chardonnay and merlot.
In 2011, about 50,847 tons of cabernet sauvignon were
harvested and sold for an average price of $4,660 per ton. Chardonnay,
with 6,772 acres, exceeded merlot (5,853 acres) by 919 bearing acres,
but merlot sold at $305 more per ton on average. Merlot production
weighed in at 16,697 tons, valued at an average of $2,560 per ton.
Chardonnay production of 21,015 tons had an average price of $2,255 a
Together, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay
accounted for nearly 73 percent (88,559 tons) of all production and more
than 77 percent ($423.4 million) of the total wine grape value.
Other than grapes
Olive production decreased in value last year by
$598,900, “primarily due to the alternate bearing nature of olive
trees,” the county’s ag report indicates. With tonnage down by some 70
percent, the value of local olives amounted to only $67,500 last year.
Vegetable production in 2011 decreased by $98,400 from the previous year, dropping to $225,000.
Floral and nursery production decreased in value last year to $2,303,400, a drop of $163,500.
The total value for field crops in 2011 was $443,000, an increase of $36,300.
The value of livestock was also up last year to
$3,326,200, a jump of $236,200. The value of poultry and other animal
crops was $580,400, a drop of $162,400.
The number of certified organic farms in Napa County rose
to 161 in 2011, the crop report indicates. Also, organic wine grape
acreage increased by
“These statistics do not include the many vineyards that
used organic practices that would qualify for organic certification, but
whose owners did not choose official certification,” Whitmer said.
County staff was busy last year, the ag commissioner
pointed out, checking for all life stages of the dreaded glassy-winged
sharpshooter, a pest that devastates grapevines. In going through 2,037
plant shipments to Napa County, inspectors did not find any of the pests
and were not forced to reject any shipments.
“Out-of-state nursery shipments, inspection of household
goods for the gypsy moth, and other ‘high hazard’ shipment inspections
continued to be a priority for inspectors,” Whitmer added.
The cover art for the 2011 Napa County Agricultural Crop
Report was created by Vintage High School senior Kathleen Deck. Titled
“The Colors of Napa Valley,” her work is a colored pencil drawing.
The report also highlights the retirements of key
department employees Jeff Erwin, deputy agricultural commissioner; Gene
Rose, agriculture and standards service worker; and Eddie Goymerac,