2012′s apple crop was the star of the show in a report the National Agricultural Statistics Service released last month; apples were the first Washington crop to cross the $2 billion dollar mark, coming in at a total value of $2.25 billion. That represented a change of 16.5% over 2011′s total crop value, but it was only one component in Washington State’s 2012 $9.89 billion agricultural sector, itself a 6% increase over 2011′s total crop values.
Apples are certainly the state’s top agricultural commodity, representing 23% of our agricultural output, and 60% of the US total output, but we also lead the country in sweet cherries, red raspberries, pears, and hops. None of those latter made it into the top five crops, which were, after apples, wheat, milk, potatoes, and hay.
Washington’s agriculture sector is a significant driver of employment; according to the 2007 USDA census, there are almost 40,000 farms in the state, employing 160,000 in jobs ranging from owner to food processing. And that’s of 2007; Washington State Department of Agriculture Director Bud Hoover pointed out that in 2012, to harvest that nearly $10 billion dollars worth of produce and livestock, “we also set record employment and sales figures in the food processing industry,” which rose 3% to $15.46 billion in 2012.