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Agriculture Industry in Santa Barbara County


Agriculture is one of the mainstays of Santa Barbara county’s economy, together with engineering and resource extraction, and third-largest employer ( it supports 25,000 jobs).

The agricultural sector has more than 720,000 acres under cultivation ( including 67,774 acres of Prime Farmland; 12,380 acres of Farmland of Statewide importance; 35,136 acres of Unique Farmland; 20,836 acres of Farmland of Local Importance and 583,310 acres of Grazing Land), and it ranks in the top 1 percent of all U.S. agricultural counties.

The agricultural sector contributes about $2,8 billion annually to Santa Barbara’s economy to support countrywide programs and services, schools and local communities.

Over 90 percent of Santa Barbara County is open land and half of them are privately owned. Over the years, Santa Barbara County farmers have responded to market forces. The freedom to grow what is demanded and profitable (from lemons and avocados to flowers and wine grapes) is why Santa Barbara County has enjoyed agriculture and the open land it provides.

The agricultural sector provides many profits to Santa Barabara and does it in many ways. Besides open space, it supports biodiversity and makes contributions to water and soil quality.

There are about 159 registered organic farms in Santa Barbara County, growing over 100 different agricultural commodities, with the top three all grown mostly in Northern Santa Barbara County ( strawberries, wine grapes and broccoli ). The farms utilize organic principles and don’t use pesticides and herbicides on soil, livestock and crops. It’s under the periodic control by a third-party organization.

Santa Barbara County agriculturalists export to 40 countries. In 2016, for example, the top five countries importing Santa Barbara County agricultural products ( Canada, Japan, Mexico, Taiwan and the United Kingdom) received 5,596 shipments.

Santa Barbara County cattle ranching can boast 30, 000 head of cattle. One Santa Barbara County farmer grows enough food for 155 people.

The future of Santa Barbara’s agriculture

The future of Santa Barbara’s agriculture isn’t entirely certain, however. It’s becoming increasingly concentrated ( 95% of the value of farm products are produced on 16% of acreage). 56 percent of the agricultural lands, meanwhile, are in grazing, but animal husbandry industries have decreased, placing these lands under pressure to convert to other uses. Santa Maria Valley, having the largest concentration of prime soils, became the place of concentration of population. That causes rapid housing prices growth that, in its turn, makes it especially difficult to support an accessible housing for farm labor.

Finally, farmers and ranchers report informing regulatory stumbling blocks to intensification, which ?ause difficulties in remaining competitive. And besides, higher water and labor costs and lower crop prices due to international competition, has put a lot of farmers under great pressure.