For the third year in a row, Santa Barbara County’s agricultural goods exceeded the $1 billion mark, reflecting a rise in produce prices, an increase in acres under cultivation, and an intensification of cultivation practices. Leading the way, as usual, were strawberries, followed by broccoli and wine grapes. “It looks better than it probably is,” cautioned Bill Gillette, county agriculture commissioner. “The cost of doing business increased, too.” He noted that the price of fertilizers and transportation jumped dramatically in the past year with the sudden rises of oil prices, and in some instances fertilizers were simply not available. Gillette said he was unaware of any farming or ranching operation going out of business. Santa Barbara strawberry growers qualified for a special exemption to environmental regulations limiting the use of methyl bromide, a controversial fumigant banned elsewhere throughout the state. As a result, Santa Barbara’s strawberry industry has expanded well past that of neighboring Ventura County. Santa Barbara’s 1,400 agricultural operations employ anywhere from 16,000-21,000 workers.