By Kelley Atherton
Triplicate staff writer
Although Del Norte County is not known for its agriculture, it has remained an important industry since settlers arrived here in the 19th century.
The county's recently released 2007 Crop Report tells the story of the total value of crops, livestock and timber. Production was down slightly last year, but the economic impact reaches past $150 million, according to a local official.
Del Norte County Agriculture Commissioner Ken Smith explained that every year the county Department of Agriculture gathers data on how much was produced in 2007 and compiles it into the Crop Report.
Last year, agricultural products produced here were worth $52 million, according to the report, and dairy products, livestock and Easter lily bulbs remained the top commodities.
The actual economic impact of agriculture in the county is triple the overall value of commodities.
"If agriculture is not number one," Smith said about its importance to the economy, "it's way up there on the top."
However, last year's Crop Report shows a 4 percent ($2 million) drop in production from 2006.
"Some years it's up, some years it's down," he said.
Smith attributes last year's drop to regulations on how many trees can be cut down. A large percentage of county forest land is protected by the U.S. Forest Service.
"The timber industry has been going down for a lot of years," he said. "Now timber production is under $7 million."
In 2006, almost 17 million board feet came from Del Norte, worth nearly $7.5 million Last year, that number dropped to just under 12 million board feet, worth $5.6 million.
"The forest in some ways is like hair," he said. "If it gets too thick you have to thin it out."
Easter lily bulbs covered almost 368 acres and netted $6.8 million last year, up from $6.7 in 2006. Combined with other flower and plants, nursery products generated nearly $15 million, down from $16 million in 2006.
"This is the Easter lily bulb capital of the world," Smith said. "It's an important crop for our county┬Śalmost $7 million a year in income."
Easter lilies are shipped all over the world, to destinations including Canada, Mexico, Tahiti, the Netherlands, South America and the Caribbean.
Livestock, including beef cattle, sheep and lamb, were worth $15.8 last year, down slightly from 2006, and milk production rose to almost $11.5 million
Field crops, such as hay, grass, fruits and vegetables, are not big commodities for Del Norte. Field crops brought in just under $2 million. However, that was up from $1.5 million in 2006. Fruits and vegetable production rose slightly in 2007, to $50,000.
California has over 300 different types of crops. Agriculture is a billion-dollar industry in a state that has the eighth-largest economy in the world, Smith said.
"California has the image of the ocean and sunshine, not agriculture products," he said.
The county Department of Agriculture also includes in the Crop Report how many shipments were inspected for pests and attempts to control invasive weeds and pests.
Within the next year, Smith said, a Weed Management Area could be formed in Del Norte to focus specifically on combating invasive species.
Sudden Oak Death is a serious threat to Del Norte County. The disease that attacks and kill several tree species is in Humboldt County and Southern Oregon, but "everything is going good right now," Smith said.
Inspection stations at the California-Oregon border that check for commodities or firewood that could be carrying SOD are only open for one shift a day. There is money in the proposed state budget to keep the "bug stations," as Smith refers to them, open 24/7. However, the budget has to be approved first, Smith added.
"It's our number one concern," he said. "We're keeping on top of SOD."
By the numbers
Agriculture commodity totals for Del Norte County from the 2007 Crop Report (in millions)
Total Agricultural Revenue 54.5 52.3
Livestock 16 15.8
Combined Nursery Products 16 15
Milk 10.8 11.5
Timber 7.5 5.6
Easter Lilies 6.7 6.8
Field Crops 1.5 1.8