By Deb Murphy

Agriculture in Inyo and Mono counties generates $78.6 million into the local economy.

That was the good news delivered by Ag Commissioner Nate Reade at Tuesday’s Inyo County Board of Supervisors meeting. The number includes both the actual value of ag production, $49.7 million plus $28.9 in associated economic activity—salaries, purchases, etc.

The study was put together by Agricultural Impact Associates based on 2015 figures, the most recent year state figures were available as a basis of comparison. The purpose of the study, according to Reade was to do a deep-dive into the industry, beyond the annual crop report.

Mono County contributed $31.2 million of that total, nearly twice Inyo’s total of $18.5 million. The biggest categorical gap was in field crops—defined as alfalfa, irrigated pasture and rangeland pasture. Mono’s total of $17.2 million was nearly three times Inyo at $6.1 million. The difference, Reade explained, reflects the difference in private land ownership between the two counties. Inyo land in private hands is roughly 2-percent of its land mass. On the other hand, Mono County’s Antelope, Hammil and Fish Lake valleys are predominantly in private ownership.

The numbers are also a good indication of Inyo’s relationship with Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Only 10-percent of ag economics are generated on LADWP leases but that percentage generates 68.6-percent of Inyo’s agricultural economic output.

While the study shows dips in ag production, especially during drought conditions, it also shows the economic consistency of the industry whose growth out strips inflation.

The study goes into detail on the ecosystem value of agriculture. But both Inyo and Mono counties fall short when it comes to economic diversity. The study concluded that, basically, there isn’t much in either county. Reade noted grapes in Fish Lake, garlic in Hammil and dates in Tecopa – but the impact is minimal compared to cow/calf operations and alfalfa.

The culprit, of course, is an uncooperative growing season that can freeze the buds off peach trees in April.

Two crops holding the best shot at diversification success are grapes and cannabis according to the report.

The study includes a range of strategies for both diversification and adding value to agricultural production in both counties. “The information is there for people to access,” Reade said. His strategy is to do more research on some elements of the study and take to agricultural groups in both counties.

The report is available on the Inyo/Mono County Agriculture Commissioner’s website under useful links/forms/reports.

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