Santa Barbara County Ag Revenues Almost Hit $2 Billion Ceiling

But County Agricultural Commissioner’s Crop Report Doesn’t Include Cannabis Revenues

According to Santa Barbara County’s newly released crop report, strawberries led the pack in 2021, generating $849 million in revenues. | Credit: Rodeo Farms

Revenues derived from agricultural operations in Santa Barbara County are pushing up against the $2 billion mark, having hit $1.918 billion for 2021 — a $98.988 million increase from 2020. Had cannabis revenues been included, it’s all but certain the $2 billion ceiling would have been shattered to smithereens. 

As usual, strawberries led the pack, generating $849 million in revenues with wine grapes pulling in $105 million and broccoli generating $101 million. 

The big asterisk in all these figures, released by County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, is that they do not include any revenues generated by the county’s cannabis industry. For technical reasons having to do with the politics of regulating crops, cannabis is not legally or officially designated an agricultural crop. (By law, the county is seriously restricted in its ability to regulate the cultivation of farm crops. By not decreeing cannabis as such, greater latitude to regulate was allowed.) 

In 2021, the county reported collecting $11.7 million in tax revenues off revenues generated by cannabis licensees operating on 280 acres of land. That’s merely the taxable revenues collected, not the total amount generated. Assuming a 4 percent rate of taxation — the lowest possible number based on the county’s tax codes — that’s around an additional $300 million.

In 2021, there were 15,000 acres set aside for broccoli cultivation, 12,500 for cauliflower, and 11,238 for strawberries. Of all wine grapes, pinot is the most land intensive varietal with 5,000 acres. In terms of raw acreage, ranching and rangeland is by far the most expansive, with 567,595 acres set aside; 2021 saw the raising of 23,599 head of cattle. Out on the deep blue sea, lobster — sold to the lucrative China market — brought in the most money: $5.4 million for 233,860 pounds of catch. Sea Urchin was second, with $2.5 million and 766,856 pounds. 

To put these numbers in perspective, 10 years ago — in 2011 — the County Ag Commissioner’s Office reported total revenues of $1.1 billion. Strawberries and broccoli led the pack, with strawberries generating $366 million in revenues and broccoli $126 million.

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