California has one of the most diversified economies of any state in the nation. Important industries include aerospace, computers, mining, manufacturing, entertainment, tourism, forestry, and agriculture. Forests cover approximately 30% of the state and the production of timber and wood products is critical for the many local economies. Farms and ranches use another 30 million acres of California's 1200 million acre total. Of this, 7.7 million acres are in crop production and the remainder is in rangeland used for animal production.
The 83,000 farms in California average 368 acres in size and produce an average net income of $82,710. Despite being almost 100 acres smaller than the national average farm size, California farms produce nearly four times the national farm average of $23,748. The net income is only a small part of the contribution of agriculture to the state economy. Total farm receipts for 1992 amounted to $18.23 billion, or 10.6% of the national total of $171.17 billion. However, farms in California generated $58 billion in personal income (9.5% of the total state income) and $63 billion in value to the state economy (9% of total value added by all California businesses). Although there are 285,000 farm jobs in the state, the 1.4 million jobs in total supported by agriculture include farm service, farm chemical, transportation, manufacture, and sales positions. Surprisingly, the farm-related employment in southern California is double that of any region of the state.
As it has every year since 1948, California farms lead the nation in farm production. If the top five counties were states, they would place 27, 29, 33, 34 and 37th in the national rankings for cash receipts. Despite being the leader in national agricultural production, California's farmers collect only 4.6% of the government agricultural support payments. This is probably a function of the tremendous diversity in high value commodities produced in the state. Among the 250 recognized crops grown in California, the state leads the nation in production of at least 66 of them. Important grouped commodities include vegetable crops ($3.66 billion), fruit and nut crops ($5.28 billion), field and seed crops ($2.72 billion), nursery and flower crops ($1.88 billion), and livestock, dairy, poultry, and apiary products ($5.08 billion).
California has the largest population of any state in the nation and it continues to grow at a rapid rate. The expanding population of urban areas also puts tremendous pressure on agricultural lands and natural landscapes. Over the last 30 years, approximately 7 million acres of farmland have been lost to urbanization. Most of this loss has been from rangeland. Much of the cropland lost has been replaced by conversion of other lands to crop production; although the total crop acreage has remained stable, much of the land lost to urban growth was highly productive. One of the consequences of urbanization is the increased social, political, and economic interactions at the urban and agricultural interface. Similar interactions are occurring at the urban and wild-lands interface with competing interests attempting to resolve issues that bring them into conflict.
The mission of the Agricultural Experiment Station is to serve the various clientele to solve problems arising in the urban, agriculture, and natural resources environments. This presents an important challenge because of the environmental, economic, and cultural diversity of the state. However, through effective communication among the campus-based staff, county Cooperative Extension staff, and the concerned interest groups, research programs can be initiated and results implemented to solve problems that are important to the citizens of the state.