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Tulare County Crops Likely Highest Valued In The Nation

John Stanbridge / Flickr
 

John Stanbridge / Flickr

For the fourth year in a row, Tulare County's crop values hit an all-time high topping $8 billion in 2014, it's a 10 percent increase over 2013.

That will likely mean Tulare's crops will be worth more than any other county in the nation -- even though California is in a historic drought.

The increases are mostly driven by Tulare's dairy and citrus industries -- both of which lead the country.

Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County's Agricultural Commissioner, says farmers have been switching to higher-valued crops like tangerines, tangelos, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans and lemons in recent years. But, she says the financial growth is not sustainable because of the drought.

"The lack of water is causing severe shortages, and we're going to see less citrus acres on our 2015 crop report," says Kinoshita.

Most farmers are pumping well water to irrigate their crops. Tom Stokely, a water policy analyst with California Water Impact Network.

"The groundwater basins in Tulare County are clearly in overdraft and so it's basically like mining your savings account without replenishing it," says Stokely.

He says the county's bounty is good for the economy but bad for the environment.