Agricultural uncertainty complicates land-use planning
by John Krist
Since 2013, strawberry acreage in
Ventura County has declined 34 percent,
from 13,555 acres in 2013 to 9,004 in 2016, according to the
California Strawberry Commission.
The relatively swift and substantial change in acreage devoted to the county's highest-grossing crop is the result of a variety of factors: thinning profit margins due to increasing labor, land and water costs; a shift of production north to Santa Maria and south to Baja as growers seek cheaper land and more reliable water; depressed prices because overplanting upset the balance between supply and demand.
Change of this sort is nothing new. The history of Ventura County agriculture is a 150-year story of adaptation to evolving circumstances. But today, Ventura County agriculture faces more sources of profound uncertainty - the kind that can trigger changes in fundamental structural elements of the industry-than at any other time in recent memory. In such an environment, it is risky to assume that what agriculture here looks like today tells us much of anything about what it will look like tomorrow, a year from now or two decades from now.