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Sonoma County's crop value fell 7% in 2008

  • Scorching temperatures and fogless mornings send crews scurrying to get grapes off the vine and delivered to local wineries. Sonoma-Cutrer was among those racing on Wednesday September 4, picking and delivering chardonnay and pinot noir grapes.

Grape-damaging frost, combined with high feed prices and a slowing national economy, caused Sonoma County crop values to fall by 7 percent last year.

The results, released Tuesday in the annual crop report, provide an important snapshot of the county?s $593 million agricultural bounty.

Wine grapes, the county?s largest crop, suffered from frost damage and hot windy weather that affected fertilization in 2008. As a result, yields sank for the third year in a row and the value of the grapes sold fell nearly 9 percent to $381 million.

But two smaller crops, apples and vegetables, both benefited from higher prices. The value of the apple crop rose 12 percent to nearly $8 million and vegetable crops increased 18 percent to $9 million.

This year, farm leaders are predicting an average grape crop, a downturn in apple revenue, dismal milk prices and a difficult year for poultry producers.

County supervisors said Tuesday that the report captures key data about the county?s farms.

?It really shows that agriculture is a key element of the economy of Sonoma County,? said board Chairman Paul Kelley.

The trends in Sonoma County are similar for the region.

Mendocino County reported the value of its agricultural crops declined 13 percent <NO1><NO>last year to $176 million. Timber, the leading crop, declined 10 percent to $67 million, and wine grapes declined nearly 18 percent to $62 million.

Lake County?s crop report will be released later this summer. But Steve Hajik, the county?s agricultural commissioner, said it will show declines in the yields of wine grapes, pears and walnuts.

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