Agri-Musings: The Effects of Retirement

In 1975, I wrote a high school paper on population dynamics. Who knew what an impact that paper would have on my life? From that point on, I looked at everything though the lens of demographics. After I married, my husband and I made financial, family, and work decisions based on how we thought society would be shaped by the age distribution of our population.

Much of what we predicted is coming to pass. Globally, there are competing interests for natural resources. Nationally, the impacts of population growth and increasing urbanization are changing our landscape and the fabric of our society. And the impact of aging baby boomers retiring, en masse, is changing the job market, health care, financial markets, volunteerism, tourism, and how society looks at careers and aging.

In California, rapid retirement of baby boomers will be felt acutely because of over-committed pension funds, the impacts of a rapid “brain drain”, and high-levels of California emigration among retirees.

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPCI) Reports:

  • Retirees grew from 3.8 million in 2008 to 5.2 million in 2018 (38% increase).
  • Compare this 38% increase in retirees to the 8% population growth.
  • Retirees were, on the average well-educated. From 2008 to 2018, the education levels of retirees were:
    • ~700,000 people with college degrees
    • ~250,000 people with associate degrees
    • ~ 300,000 people with high school education
  • There are more than 70,000 new retirees with bachelor’s degree each year for the last decade.
  • Only 55,000 new bachelor’s degrees are awarded by the entire University of California system each year.
  • California could see a shortfall of college graduates of 1.1 million by 2030.
  • PPIC claims that the state is increasing funding for increased enrollment, graduation rates, and degrees awarded, but provides no substantiation for these claims.

Johnson, Hans. Many of California’s Highly Educated Workers are Retiring. Public Policy Institute of California. (January 24, 2019) https://www.ppic.org/blog/many-of-californias-highly-educated-workers-are-retiring/?utm_source=ppic&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=blog_subscriber

Agri-Stats: Strawberries

Consumer demand for strawberries has driven an ever-expanding market in Florida, California and Mexico over the past decades. See Stats below (Santani).

  • U.S Production :
    • Was nore the 3,015 million pound of strawberries in 2011.
    • Is the second largest volume in the world.
    • Is 20% of the world’s strawberry crop.
    • Has the highest productivity per unit area.
    • Farmgate economic value was between $2.3 billion and $2.9 billion from 2014 to 2017.
    • The fresh market value of berries is second to the fresh apple market.
    • Has increased about 17% since 1990. Most of the increases were in Florida and California with inverse decreases for smaller producing areas that could not be as competitive.
    • Is showing increases in small acreage and urban production to meet consumer demand for direct-to-market, local, and organic production.
  • Percent U.S. Strawberry Production by Growing Region:
    • California – 91%
    • Florida – 8%
    • All other states (North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington) combined + about 1%. (Note: this 1% is produced on about 17% of the available acreage and by 85%, >9,000, farms.)
  • California Production:
    • Is mostly concentrated in three primary coastal prodution regions: Salinas/Watsonville, Santa Maria, and Oxnard.
    • 2017 and 2018 acreage declined about 17% from previous years due to pressures to eliminate Methyl bromide fumigation, labor shortages, drought, urbanization, and exorbitant land lease rates: 38,937 (2014) to 33,791 acres (2018)
    • It appears the downward trend will continue in 2019 with a reduction of ~6% fewer fall planted strawberry acres in California. The majority of acreage reductions are located in the Salinas/Watsonville growing region, which has decreased about 12% from 2018 acres.
    • Most of California berries are annual plantings with 27,804 acres planted in the fall of 2017 for winter/spring/summer harvests. These fall plantings are started using bare-root plants from Northern California nurseries.
    • 5,988 acres are planted in the summer for fall harvest. These are “frigo” plants, which are dormant, leafless, strawberry plants thata have been in cold-storage for months.
    • In 2018, organic production was 3,023 acres of fall-planted and 968 acres of summer-planted berries.
    • About 75% of acres are harvested for fresh market and about 25% are harvested for the frozen foods market.
    • About 16% of harvested berries are exported to Canada, Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong.
    • About 59% of acres are planted with University of California cultivars and the remaining acres are planted to proprietary varieties.
    • 100% of strawberries are hand-picked; however, the industry is investing heavily in development of robotic strawberry pickers in response to unrelenting labor shortages.
  • U.S. Consumption
    • Has increased from 2 lb. per capita in 1980 to 8 lb. per capita in 2013.
    • During the U.S. off-season, berries are imported from Mexico. This represents about 11% of the total market share. Mexican imports have increased in recent years and over 800 million pounds were imported in 2012 and 2013.

Consumption is expected to continue to increase as a result of health awareness, year-round product availability, and improved cultivars. In 2019, Florida and Mexico acreages appear to be roughly equal to previous years. Acreage losses in California (mostly in the Salinas/Watsonville production area) are expected to be off-set by the planting of more productive varieties so that overall U.S. volumes will remain mostly unchanged. The anticipated volume of U.S. berries is expected to meet demand. (Winiecke)

Samtani, Jayesh, B. et al. The Status and Furture of the Strawberry Industry in the United States. In HortTechnolgy, American Society for Horticultural Science. (January, 31, 2019). https://journals.ashs.org/horttech/view/journals/horttech/aop/article-10.21273-HORTTECH04135-18.xml#B23

Winiecke, Dan. California Strawberry Acreage in 2019. TreeTop. (December 11, 2018). https://foodingredients.treetop.com/fruit-ingredients-blog/Post/California-Strawberry-Acreage-in-2019/

Agri-Stats: Farmland Losses

American Farmland Trust is a dynamic NGO focused on agricultural issues. They lead on the subject of farmland loss and conversion to development. The continued viability of our agricultural industry is linked to overall economic prosperity. Ag land is linked to many different types of natural resource protections.

In 2018, American Farmland Trust published a detailed report, Farms Under Threat, which provided “hard evidence that America’s farmland is disappearing”. Great maps are provided that illustrate the report’s finding such as correlation between land productivity and development, distribution of Ag lands, combined productivity, versatility and resiliency of Ag land, and the best land for intensive crop production. Recommendations for conserving farmland are included.

Some key findings include:

“- Nearly twice the area of farmland was lost than was previously known. 

– Between 1992 and 2012, we lost nearly 31 million acres of land. That’s 175 acres an hour, or 3 acres every single minute.

– 11 million of those acres were among the best farmland in the nation—classified as the most productive, most versatile and most resilient land.

– Development disproportionately occurred on agricultural lands, with 62 percent of all development occurring on farmland.

– Expanding urban areas accounted for 59 percent of the loss.

– Low-density residential development, or the building of houses on one- to 20-acre parcels, accounted for 41 percent [of the farmland losses].”


National Advisory Committee, American Farmland Trust. Farms Under Threat, The State of America’s Farmland. (2018). https://www.farmland.org/initiatives/farms-under-threat




Agri-Stats: California Ag Has Not Recovered From the Drought.

In October 2016, California Department of Food and Ag (CDFA) announced 2016, “In 2015 California’s farms and ranches received approximately $47 billion for their output. This represents a decrease of nearly 17 percent compared to 2014.” The US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said prior-year comparable receipts were $56.6 billion. cThat’s a revenue loss of $9.6 billion in a single year. Supposedly, these losses are the equivalent of Ebay being wiped out (Kasler) .

It is assumed that the 2015 Ag businesses losses were due to drought and curtailment of water allocations for irrigation purposes.

However, 2017 statistics show that the state has not fully recovered from the impacts of the drought. In 2017, California’s farms and ranches received over $50 billion in cash receipts for their output. This represents an increase of almost 6 percent compared to 20161.

1 Based on USDA ERS figures published as of August 30, 2018

Kasler, Dale. California Revenues Plunge in 2015. The Sacramento Bee. (August 30, 2016) http://go2.mailsquadron.com/click/d7t27-4rncpl-2eszua56

2017 California Department of Food and Ag (CDFA) Ag Production Statistics https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/statistics/

Agri-Stats: Ag Land and Urbanization

How Much Ag Land is California is Adjacent to Urban Land? 

  • California is roughly 101 million acres
  • 43 million acres of land in California are devoted to Ag
    • 16 million acres to grazing
    • 27 million acres to cropland
  • 3.4 million acres of California Ag land was within 1/3 mile of urban land in 2002 according to CDFA
  • 2 million acres of California Ag land is no longer farmed because it is in areas that are too urbanized
  • 40,000 acres of California Ag land is being lost to urbanization each year.

Source: 2016 Sustainable Ag ConferencePresentation, Ag Urban Interface Issues, Lottie Martin, Deputy Agricultural Commissioner, Santa Barbara County http://www.vineyardteam.org/files/resources/Martin%20L.pdf

Reposted from Facebook, November, 2016

Agri-Stats: Postive Impacts of Agriculture

Go Ag!

On a national level, Ag exports helped lift the US economic growth to an annualized rate of 2.9 percent in the third quarter, from 1.1 percent in the first half of 2016. “Real exports grew 10.0 percent in the third quarter, their fastest quarterly growth since 2013.”

This is positive evidence that a vibrant agricultural sector is necessary for, and contributes to, a sound U.S. economy. 

Reposted from Facebook, October 31, 2016

Agri-Stats: Feeding the World

Technology-driven agricultural intensification has been one of the most under-appreciated stories of the last half-century. Consider this:
– …Global population continues to grow, from an estimated 3.3 billion people in 1965 to an estimated 7.4 billion in 2016.
– An estimated 400 million individuals were added in the last five years alone.
Arable land [acreage] continues to shrink, from 0.88 acres per person in 1965 to 0.49 acres per person in 2013.
Daily global food consumption per capita has risen from an estimated 2,358 calories in 1965 to an estimated 2,940 calories in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.In other words, in the last half-century:
– global population…increased by 122%,
– amount of arable land per capita decreased by 45%,
– daily per capita food consumption increased by 25%.The good news is that from 1961 to 2013 we’ve been able to produce the same amount of food from 68% less land and fewer inputs.

Reposted from Facebook, September 17, 2016

Agri-Stats: Strawberries

Summary (Mostly from the California Strawberry Commission)

  • California grows about 88% of all the berries grown in the U.S. 
  • There are about 300 strawberry growers in California. 
  • There are about 34,000 acres of strawberries in California. 
  • Berries are grown in California’s unique coastal environment, which provides moderate temperatures with warm-sunny days, cool-foggy nights, and (typically) predictable rainfall.
  • Average yields are about 50,000 pounds per acre each season. 
  • In 2017, there were 206,040,481 trays (1.8 billion pounds) of fresh strawberries harvested in California. 
  • Average costs at final harvest are between $40,000 to $50,000
  • California Strawberries are grown in five distinct growing areas: Orange County/San Diego, Oxnard/Ventura, Santa Maria/Southern SLO County and Santa Maria. 
  • Production starts in the South in the winter and shifts northward as temperatures heat up during the spring. This ensures that California strawberries are available to consumers year-round
  • New berry varieties have lengthened the number of days in the growing season to even out year-round production, improved shipping quality, while increasing the flavor! 

Agri-Stats: Number of US Farms

Changes in Agricultural demographics:

  • In 2012, the United States had 2.1 million farms – down 4.3 percent from the previous Census in 2007.
  • Farm size by acres continues an overall downward trend in mid-sized farms, while the smallest and largest-size farms held steady.
  • Between 2007 and 2012, U.S. farm acreage continued a slow downward trend declining from 922 million acres to 915 million. This is only a decline of less than one percent and is the third smallest decline between censuses since 1950.
  • Source – 2012 US Census of Agriculture

Agri-Stats: US 2016

In 2016:

  • There are about 2.1 million farms in the U.S.
  • Tthere are about 912 million farm acres in the U.S.
  • When permanent grasslands and timber are added, there are about 2 billion acres in agriculture in the U.S. 
  • Only 37% of Americans believe that most farms are family-run (That’s one of the findings from the International Food Information Council’s annual survey of consumers).
  • In reality, over 96% of U.S. farms are family operations.
  • 1940, the average farmer produced food and fiber for 19 people
  • 2016, the average farmer produces food and fiber for 160 people.
  • Less than 2% of the U.S. population is involved with farming;
  • but 40-45% of all jobs are rooted in farming (I am not quite sure what this means…)
  • In the U.S. farmers and ranchers earn $0.16 for every retail food dollar consumers spend.

Excerpts from Monterey County Farm Bureau, Farm Focus

Reposted from Jun 13, 2016 3:26pm Facebook Post