Processing tomatoes were the new top crop in Solano County in 2022, regaining the top ranking in gross sales in the county for the first time since 2015, according to the latest annual Solano County Crop and Livestock Report.

Almonds, which had been the number one commodity in the county for three years in a row, saw a 70 percent decline from 2021, largely due to cold temperatures in February that caused much of the crop to freeze.

Those same factors led to a 44 percent decline in gross sales of walnuts in 2022 from 2021, leading some farmers to begin removing and replacing walnut orchards in favor of other crops.

Those were just some of the highlights of the crop report, which was presented by Agricultural Commissioner Ed King at the Solano County Board of Supervisors’ regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 1.

The 90 commodities measured in the report brought in $390,881,000 in gross sales in 2022, a decline from 2021 of $16,761,000, or 4.2 percent.

By percentage, pollination services and prunes saw some of the biggest increases, recording a 41 percent and 25 percent boost, respectively, in 2022 from 2021.

Cattle and calves were third in value, with $36.2 million in sales, up 14 percent from 2021.

‘Big, big tomato year’

Processing tomatoes brought in a record nearly $47.4 million in sales, an increase of 7 percent from 2021, in spite of the fact that 21,000 fewer tons of the crop was harvested. But the crop was able to record high sales because of a new contract between the California Tomato Growers Association and processors that increased the price from $84.50 to $105 per ton.

Tomatoes from the vendors at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that can be used at the USDA Farmers Market’s VegU educational tent demonstration of a Spanish Tomato Salad. (Lance Cheung/USDA via Bay City News)

A September heat wave and ensuing heavy rain caused Campbell’s, which has a processing plant in Dixon, to lose an entire week’s worth of production, which King said had never happened before. Growers also saw an increase in tomatoes that were rejected because of the effects of the weather.

Processing tomatoes include dozens of varieties. They are diced or made into paste before being shipped to processors who make the tomatoes into soups, salsas, sauces and juices. Processing tomatoes are expected to have another big year in 2023 if the crop is not again disrupted by weather.

“Our growers and Campbell’s are set up for a big, big tomato year,” King said.

The February freeze event caused about 60 percent of the almond crop to be ruined. Almonds brought in about $21.3 million in 2022. Almonds were still the sixth-most valuable commodity in Solano County in 2022, even as the commodity is seeing its lowest prices since 2008, according to King.

Declining value

A bowl of almonds. (Vicki Nunn/Wikipedia)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved federal disaster loans for farmers affected by the freeze through the Farm Service Agency.

Walnut farmers experienced similar issues because of the weather, along with prices that King said have been declining for the past decade.

Walnuts were the seventh top commodity in the county, recording about $11.3 million in gross sales in 2022.

About 1,000 acres of walnut orchards have been removed in 2023 as farmers react to the declining value. King said those farmers will likely replace them with field crops or possibly pistachios.

Overall revenue increase

Demand for pollination services drove that category to the eighth-most valuable in the county, with about $9.3 million in gross sales. Right behind in value were prunes, which saw a 25 percent jump in 2022 compared to 2021, recording just over $9 million in gross sales.

Livestock and poultry figures saw an overall increase from about $42 million in 2021 to about $46.5 million in 2022, led by increased prices for calves and cattle, which saw a bump in revenue despite reduced herd sizes.