BOISE — Estimates by University of Idaho agricultural economists for total farm cash receipts in Idaho for 2016 were extremely close to the official USDA numbers, which were released more than eight months later.
The UI forecasts, made by agricultural economists Garth Taylor and Ben Eborn, were made Dec. 15, while the USDA numbers were released Aug. 30.
Taylor and Eborn estimated total Idaho farm cash receipts at $7.17 billion while USDA has them at $7.08, a 1 percent difference.
Eborn and Taylor also estimated that total net farm income in Idaho for 2016 would be $1.6 billion. USDA put that number at $1.65 billion, a 3 percent difference.
Going back to 2010, UI’s annual forecast for total Idaho net farm income has been close to USDA’s final number. UI’s estimate matched USDA’s total exactly from 2010-2013 and was off 1 percent in 2014 and 2 percent in 2015.
The Idaho Legislature’s Joint Legislative Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee partly relies on the annual estimates to forecast how much revenue the state will take in that fiscal year.
That committee’s revenue forecast in turn is used during the legislative session to set state budgets.
The legislature convenes in January and usually adjourns in late March or early April, so the USDA numbers aren’t released in time to be used for that purpose.
Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, a member of the revenue assessment committee, said he was not surprised to hear how close the UI 2016 forecast was to the official USDA numbers.
“Of all the projections we hear every year, I always feel the most comfortable with what we’re being told by (Taylor and Eborn),” said Bair, a retired farmer. “The proof is in the pudding. (They) successfully predicted what farm income was going to be.”
Eborn and Taylor’s forecast that Idaho’s livestock sector — mainly dairy and beef cattle — would generate $4.3 billion in cash receipts in 2016 matched USDA’s total exactly.
Eborn said they have struggled to accurately forecast revenue from the state’s beef cattle sector in the past but tried a different formula this year.
“We got that figured out” this year, he said. “We used a much simpler way and it worked the first time we tried it.”
They forecast the beef sector would generate $1.738 billion in 2016 while USDA had that number at $1.743 billion. Their estimate that Idaho’s dairy industry would generate $2.33 billion in cash receipts was off 1 percent from USDA’s total of $2.36 billion.
Taylor and Eborn estimated cash receipts from Idaho crops would total $2.86 billion in 2016 while USDA put that total at $2.78 billion, a 3 percent difference.
They estimated potato cash receipts at $851 million while USDA put that total at $829 million, a 3 percent difference, and they forecast cash receipts for wheat at $412 million, 4 percent above USDA’s total of $395 million.
Their biggest miss was on hay cash receipts, which they forecast at $403 million, 12 percent more than USDA’s $354 million total.