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Wine grapes and livestock drove the increase

The value of Sonoma County's crops and livestock surged 12 percent last year, driven primarily by an increase in the value of the county's wine grape crop, according to the 2009 Sonoma County Agricultural Crop Report.

Strong values and a bumper crop pushed the value of wine grapes up 22 percent last year, to $465 million, according to the report, which was presented Tuesday morning to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

The increase reflects the resiliency of the county's agriculture industry despite the recession, said Cathy Neville, the county's agricultural commissioner.

"I think we're looking at tough times, but the agricultural industry in Sonoma County is pretty strong," Neville said.

Overall, the gross production value of crops and livestock increased from $583 million to $653 million.

Other segments seeing growth were livestock and poultry, which saw a 14.5 percent increase, and the bee keeping industry, which saw a 38 percent increase.

The dairy, apples, vegetable and nursery industries all fell in value.

Dairy took one of the sharpest hits, declining 33 percent in value as the unit price of milk declined 33 percent, from $18 per hundred weight of milk to $12.

The apple crop fell 35 percent, vegetables dropped 11 percent and the nursery industry took an 18 percent hit, according to the report.

This year's report was dedicated to pioneering Alexander Valley grape grower Robert Young, who is credited with introducing the cabernet sauvignon grape to the county.

"Agriculture is the true bedrock of our community and our economy," Supervisor Paul Kelley said.


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