County sees rise in agriculture industry

Withstanding the drought that continues to batter farming statewide, Sonoma County's agricultural sector continued to grow in 2013, resulting in an annual yield of crops and products valued at more than $848 million, the county announced Tuesday.

Buoyed by the strength of its $605 million grape industry, the value of the county's farm products rose 4.4 percent last year, according to the annual Sonoma County Crop Report.

The county's overall agricultural production reflects a recovering economy, as well as the resilience of farmers who continue to adapt to market trends, government regulation and shifting environmental conditions, county officials said.

"Agriculture continues to be the backbone of this county," 5th District Supervisor Efren Carrillo said.

One of the most telling bumps was a 21 percent rise in the value of local nursery products, a category that includes ornamental plants and cut flowers. Although a fraction of the size of the county's wine industry, the sector is "a bellwether of the economy," Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar said. Rising home sales and new construction is resulting in an increase in sales of plants used for landscaping, he said.

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