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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Whither California Agriculture: Up, Down, or Out? Some Thoughts about the Future


The turn of the millennium was marked by hard times in California agriculture: low prices seemingly across the board, water-supply woes, contracting growth in export markets, more stringent regulatory environments, and declining farm income. The report begins by pondering several questions: “Is it as bleak as it sounds?” “California agriculture has experienced recurrent challenges over its history and survived—can it do so again?” “Will it be able to adjust and grow in the twenty-first century?” Major portions of the report include a stylized history of California agriculture from 1769 to 2000, identification of twenty important historical drivers influencing its evolution through the end of the twentieth century, and an assessment of changes likely to influence the future of California agriculture over the next half century. The chapters are as follows:

I. Introduction

* Direct and Indirect Indicators of a “Turn of the Century” Problem?

* External/Indirect Factors

* Consequences for California Agriculture

II. A Stylized History of California Agriculture from 1769 to 2000

* Pre-20th Century Epochs

* Epochs of the First Half of the 20th Century

* Epochs of the Second Half of the 20th Century

* At Century’s End

III. The Changing Structure of California Agriculture, Statistics, and Financial Indicators: 1950–2000

* The Changing Character of California Agriculture: 1950–2000

* Agricultural Exports

* Selected Farm Statistics: 1950–2000

* Summary

IV. Drivers of California Agriculture

* Factors (Drivers) Influencing Evolution of California Agriculture—Past

* Future Threats and/or Future Opportunities

* Drivers Influencing the Future of California Agriculture

* Concluding Comment: Factors Affecting the Future of

* California’s Agriculture

V. A Possible Prognosis for the Future

* Why California Agriculture Is Different

* Bottom Line: What Are California Agriculture’s Chances?

* Bottom-Bottom Line

VI. References

VII. Appendix

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