Butte County agricultural production in 2012 grew about 10 percent and when you're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that is big money, but it doesn't necessarily mean farmers are turning big profits.
The latest agriculture numbers for the county show total production in 2012 at over $722 million.
Walnuts lead the way, making up $235 million, followed in a distant second by almonds at $160 million and rice at $154 million.
It is simple economics, more acreage means higher total yield and that combined with decent prices at the store means that crops as valuable as ever.
And as far as the economy in Butte County goes, agriculture is king.
“Now that $722 million translates into like $3 billion of actual trickledown effect,” says Butte County Agricultural Commissioner Richard Price. “People buy cars for local industry, they put money in the bank, (and) they provide jobs for everybody around us—either directly or indirectly.”
And while those hundreds-of-millions of dollars in crop production might have you thinking farmers are making big bucks, that is not necessarily the case.
”When you see a good year the growers are smiling but they know that not every year is going to be excellent, number one,” Price says. “Number two, they're looking at some of the increased costs that go into production that they can't control. And that is a concern that farmers have when I tell them, 'Boy, you make lots of money,' well, not all that's profit.”
Price says some of the costs that hurt farmers most are high fuel costs and upgrades to farming equipment required by state regulations.
He also says many of those regulations are voted on by legislators who don’t live in areas where agriculture is the number one economic factor, so they might not understand the impact they’re having on farmers.
To help offset those costs Price is working with Chico State to try and get students thinking about production innovations..
He says whoever comes up with the next big production cost saving innovation will have a cash crop on their hands.