Wrong Number

The value of organic sales in Monterey County last year was about $726 million, about 18 percent of the total crop value. After livestock acres, the second-most organic acreage is in lettuce.

Monterey County’s annual crop report, which was released to the public July 12, presented what was seemingly an alarming development: Organic acreage in the county went from 132,809 acres in 2020 to 79,255 acres in 2021.

What happened?

It appears the answer is bad data, and that in fact not much has changed in the field.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the accurate number for Monterey County’s organic acreage for the year 2020 – which includes livestock pasture – was 88,649 acres, far below the incorrect 132,809 acres in the county’s crop report.

And what seemed to be a conundrum now looks like continuity: 88,649 acres is within close range of the 89,566 acres of the organic farmland reflected in the 2019 crop report.

Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales says he’s not sure how the error was made and adds that his staff will correct it as soon as possible.

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His staff might also have to make another correction: The 2021 crop report pegs the organic acreage at 79,255 acres, which is above the 62,769 acres CDFA has on record for the county last year.

The county Ag Commissioner’s office gets all data for organics from the CDFA, so it’s unclear how and why the wires got crossed, but Gonzales says his staff will be looking into it.

Errors aside, the state’s data does reflect a nearly one-third drop in organic acreage.

Gonzales hypothesizes that it may be because the cost of organic inputs – things like fertilizer and feed – have been rising.

“We’ll see if it’s an anomaly, or what happens in the future,” he says.

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