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Federal payments to Idaho agriculture drop 44 percent

Federal government payments accounted for less than 5 percent of Idaho’s total net farm income, compared to 17.7 percent for U.S. agriculture overall.
Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Published on January 16, 2018 11:05AM

Last changed on January 16, 2018 11:07AM

Wheat is harvested near Nampa, Idaho, last August. Federal government payments to Idaho farmers dropped an estimated 44 percent in fiscal year 2017, according to University of Idaho agricultural economists.

Sean Ellis/Capital Press

Wheat is harvested near Nampa, Idaho, last August. Federal government payments to Idaho farmers dropped an estimated 44 percent in fiscal year 2017, according to University of Idaho agricultural economists.

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BOISE — Total federal government payments to Idaho farmers and ranchers declined an estimated 44 percent in fiscal year 2017.

According to University of Idaho’s annual ”Financial Condition of Idaho Agriculture” report, the state’s producers received $89 million in government payments in fiscal 2017.

That amount accounted for 4.6 percent of Idaho farmers’ and ranchers’ total net farm income in fiscal 2017, while government payments accounted for 17.7 percent of total U.S. net farm income.

Fewer than 1 percent of total U.S. farm payments went to Idaho producers, according to the report.

In a phrase that UI Agricultural Economist and report co-author Garth Taylor repeats to lawmakers often, including this year while going over the highlights of the report, “Idaho farmers don’t farm the government.”

Idaho agriculture is much less reliant on federal government payments than the rest of the U.S. because farmers in this state don’t grow many acres of crops that receive the bulk of government payments related to farm bill programs, said UI Agricultural Economist and report co-author Ben Eborn.

He said most of the government payments Idaho farmers and ranchers received in fiscal 2017 were from the Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage programs. Both are authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and help compensate growers when commodity prices are low.

Most of the PLC and ARC payments that Idaho producers received in fiscal 2017 were related to low grain prices, Eborn said.

Milk program payments in Idaho were down in 2017 due to slightly higher milk prices, he said.

Despite “Snowmageddon,” as the state’s harsh winter last year is called, “we saw very little disaster payments (in 2017) even with the flooding and snow damage,” Taylor said. “Mostly, it was ARC and PLC kicking in with these low prices.”

The rest of the government payments to Idaho farmers and ranchers in fiscal 2017 came from the farm bill’s conservation programs, and those were down significantly as well, Eborn said.

Idaho farmers took a lot of land out of the Conservation Reserve Program from 2013 to 2015 and that has resulted in a significant drop in the state’s total CRP payments, he said. The CRP program provides participating farmers annual payments in exchange for taking environmentally sensitive land out of production.



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