BEND, Ore. (AP) -- Last year, a lot of farmers east of the Cascade Range in Oregon saw high wheat prices, so they plowed up their hay fields to plant grain.
This year, the Southwest is parched, hay is short nationwide, and ranchers desperate to save their herds are calling to buy hay from Central and Eastern Oregon.
That means farmers who do have hay to sell are enjoying markedly higher prices, The Bend Bulletin (http://bit.ly/qtt0Mu) reported.
"I am getting calls from multiple states looking for hay," said Greg Mohnen, foreman at McGinnis Ranch in Tumalo and president of the Central Oregon Hay Forage Association.
The Oregon farmers were not alone, helping lead to a national hay shortage and near-record prices, said Mylen Bohle, a crops specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.
Statewide, farmers are growing about 35,000 fewer acres of hay this year than in 2010, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service crop estimates. And the average statewide price for all hay in August was $225 per ton, up from $156 per ton in August 2010.
In the Bend area, the paper said, hay prices at midweek were $50 to $100 or more per ton above last year.
But hay production was dampened this year by the long winter, "one of the coldest years we've had in a long, long time, especially the cold spring," Bohle said.
Typically in Central Oregon, hay produces three cuttings, he said, and this year's first cutting was one of the smallest in years. "It's hard to make that up with second and third cuttings," he said.
With flooding in the Midwest and drought in the southwest cutting into production of hay and feed grain crops, Bohle said more severe shortages and higher prices are likely to continue into 2012.
Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com
Copyright 2011 The AP.