Sean Ellis/Capital Press
BOISE — The condition of Idaho agriculture is improving, with farm exports and farm cash receipts expected to be up this year compared with 2016.
And Idaho agriculture is on a different, better track than U.S. agriculture as a whole when it comes to cash receipts and net farm income.
That was the message University of Idaho Agricultural Economist Garth Taylor delivered Nov. 28 during the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Seed Association’s annual meeting.
The value of Idaho foreign farm product exports had declined 20 percent from 2014 to 2016 but they are up 12 percent through the first nine months of 2017, Taylor said.
“We’ve turned a corner on a lot of ag exports,” he said.
UI ag economists forecast that Idaho farmgate receipts, which totaled a revised $7.2 billion in 2016, will increase 2 to 7 percent this year, after declining each of the past two years.
Based on USDA Economic Research Service data, Taylor said, farm cash receipts in Idaho have outgrown the U.S. as a whole by 40 percent since 1980 when converted to real dollars.
During that same time, net farm income in Idaho has outpaced the U.S. as a whole by 100 percent.
“Idaho is growing far faster than the U.S. overall,” he said.
Taylor used the state’s potato and dairy sectors to show that growth is based on yield increases rather than price increases.
Potato prices have declined 45 percent since 1980 when adjusted for inflation, while dairy prices have declined by 59 percent, yet both those sectors have seen large increases in total farm cash receipts.
“The growth comes from production, not price,” he said. “It’s the innovation that you bring to the table that’s propelling agriculture.”
In terms of farm Gross Domestic Product as a percentage of a state’s total GDP, Idaho ranks fourth in the nation, behind South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, Taylor said.
While those other three states had negative overall GDP growth during the second quarter of 2017, Idaho GDP increased by 2.7 percent, led by the stability of the state’s agricultural sector, Taylor said.
“It’s agriculture that is dragging those states’ economies down,” he said. “I’m not really worried when Midwest states have heartburn (because) we’re on a different track than they are.”
Idaho farm GDP has grown 259 percent since 1997, while total state GDP has grown 172 percent since then and GDP from the state’s food manufacturing sector has grown 120 percent.
So, while Idaho’s recent string of new food processing facilities may attract the ribbon cutting ceremonies, that sector “has not grown as fast as mom and dad, grandma and grandpa on a tractor,” Taylor said.
But Idaho’s farming sector is not necessarily a new job creator because farmers are doing more with less, he said. While total Idaho jobs increased by 28,000 from 1997-2016, the state’s total farm jobs increased by only 100 during that time.
“Farmers are producing more value with less people and that’s called growth,” Taylor said. “Farmers are getting smarter.”