BOISE — Total net farm income in Idaho rose an estimated 15 percent in 2017, far faster than USDA’s projected 3 percent increase for U.S. agriculture overall.
Net farm income, which is revenues minus expenses, represents the farmer’s bottom line.
Farm expenses in Idaho rose an estimated 2 percent in 2017 but overall revenue rose 5 percent, according to University of Idaho’s “Financial Condition of Idaho Agriculture” report.
That resulted in $1.9 billion in total net farm income for Idaho farmers last year.
Idaho net farm income had dropped three straight years — 3 percent in 2014, 9 percent in 2015 and 8 percent in 2016.
Low commodity prices still pose challenges in farm country, “But after the past three years, we’ll take it,” UI Agricultural Economist Garth Taylor, one of the report’s authors, said about last year’s increase in net farm income.
Taylor said the stark contrast in the state’s and nation’s net farm income percentage increases stands out. A separate report complied by Taylor shows that Idaho’s net farm income has grown 100 percent more than the U.S. since 1997.
“We are on a different track in Idaho than the nation is. Far different,” he said.
The report’s authors and private economists attributed Idaho’s increase in net farm income largely to gains in the state’s dairy, beef and potato industries.
Dairy, cattle and potatoes are the state’s main commodities, respectively, in terms of cash receipts.
“The 2017 year will show solid improvement over 2016, in terms of both cash receipts and net farm income,” Doug Robison, Northwest Farm Credit Services’ senior vice president for agriculture in Western Idaho, told Capital Press in an email. “The improvement has been led by potatoes and dairy, with cattle providing strong support as well.”
But, he added, “while the dairy industry in Idaho will generate positive profits in 2017, net earnings within the industry remain below historical averages.”
Despite the state’s 15 percent increase in net farm income, low commodity prices, especially for grains, are resulting in many farmers struggling to turn a profit, said UI Agricultural Economist Ben Eborn, a report author.
Shelley farmer Stan Searle said that while most Idaho farmers fared better in 2017 than they did in 2016, “We still have battles ahead. The biggest issue is there are some commodities still below the cost of production.”
The UI report shows total Idaho farm expenses reached $6.24 billion in 2017, up 2 percent over the $6.14 billion total in 2016.
A 1 percent decrease in costs for farm origin inputs and capital consumption were offset by a 1 percent increase in contract labor costs, a 7 percent increase in property taxes and fees and a 5 percent increase in payments to stakeholders.
Total farm revenues, which include cash receipts and government payments, totaled $8.16 billion, up 5 percent over 2016.