California tomato processors expect to sign contracts with growers for 14.0 million tons of processing tomatoes this year, according to a late May report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

The NASS estimate is a 17.6 percent increase from the final contracted production total from last year.

Contracted acreage of 285,000 – as of late May - is 2 percent below the January intentions forecast, yet 10 percent above last year’s final contracted acreage.

Fresno County is California’s largest processing tomato contract leader this year with 90,000 acres. Yolo, Kings, San Joaquin, Merced, and Colusa County round out the top five counties.

Combined, NASS says processing tomato growers in these counties produce 80 percent of this year’s statewide crop.

In February, tomato beds were formed and pre-plant herbicides were applied. Processing tomato transplants were planted in the early spring as allowed by weather and soil conditions.

California is the nation’s largest processing tomato producer in the nation with 96 percent of the crop grown in the Golden State.

The farm value of the California processing tomato crop was $948 million in 2012.

This early processing tomato estimate is funded by the California League of Food Processors in cooperation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture.