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Production Cost Data in High Demand

The Issue

Besides farmers, Californians from many disciplines need and use cost-of-production data for California-grown agricultural crops. Before investing in a crop, the farmer needs to calculate the cost of each operation including seed, water, fertilizer, land rent, etc. The sum of these investments is used to estimate the cost of production and the potential profit or loss of the farming venture. A break-even value of each unit of production, such as a carton of lettuce or ton of alfalfa, can be estimated as well. Chief users of the information include farmers, investors, money lenders, government agencies, students, accountants, county and state planning agencies, water districts, environmental groups and a myriad of agricultural businesses.

What Has ANR Done?

UC Advisors Keith Mayberry and Herman Meister have developed a current spreadsheet-based cost-of-production program for 14 vegetable and eight field crops grown in the Imperial Valley of California. Commodities listed include lettuce, melons, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, alfalfa, wheat and sugar beets. The bulletins, providing a complete summary of costs from planting through harvest, are available in both electronic and hard copy formats. Upon request, the Excel spreadsheets may be obtained so the budget can be modified to reflect the actual cost to farmers. This allows the farmer to play the “What If" game: What if I change the cost of land rent or what if I use more costly hybrid seed? The spreadsheet automatically recalculates changes and the profit-or-loss table. The bulletins also contain current information on yield, acreage and value of each commodity. There are sections on planting dates, varieties, irrigation, fertilizer, pest control, harvest and postharvest requirements for each crop. The bulletins may be compared to a cookbook for growing vegetables and field crops.

The Payoff

Easy Access to Crop Production Costs and Practices

The bulletins, titled “Guidelines to Production Costs and Practices,” are one of the most valuable publications offered by UC Cooperative Extension. Data for 2002-2003 are available at Imperial County Cooperative Extension website http://ceimperial.ucdavis.edu and at the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at http://www.agecon.ucdavis.edu/outreach/crop/cost.htm. These websites received requests for over 240,000 downloads from the public in 2002, up from 132,000 downloads in 2001. This number of downloads demonstrates the popularity and demand for current and accurate cost-of-production data on California’s agriculture.


Supporting Unit: Imperial County

Keith S. Mayberry and Herman S. Meister
UC Cooperative Extension
Advisors Vegetable and Field Crops, respectively
1050 E. Holton Rd.
Holtville CA 92250
ksmayberry@ucdavis.edu hmeister@ucdavis.edu