Experts expect record revenue
Swelling commodity prices could upset historical rankings
By SEAN ELLIS
Ag economists and Idaho farmers say higher commodity prices will likely make 2011 a record revenue year for Idaho agriculture.
Idaho agriculture brought in a record $6.3 billion in cash receipts in 2008, and the 2010 total was $5.78 billion.
"We stand a very good chance of setting a new record in terms of cash receipts," said Paul Patterson, an agricultural economist with the University of Idaho, which annually ranks Idaho ag commodities by total cash receipts.
The farmers who are seeing those higher prices agree with that assessment.
"I think we're going to have a really good year," American Falls potato farmer Jim Tiede said. "We had $9 wheat, corn is at $7 and hay is selling for $200 a ton. I suspect we'll set a farm gate revenue record."
Patterson said the expected record is based on increased commodity prices, coupled with a shift in total acreage numbers from some crops to others.
That same shift in prices and acres could also result in a shakeup of the state's annual crop rankings for total cash receipts during the calendar year.
In Idaho, dairy, cattle and calves, and potatoes have claimed the top three spots, in that order, for many years.
In 2010, dairy ranked No. 1 in Idaho for total revenue with $1.95 billion in cash receipts. Cattle and calves came in second at $1.1 billion and was followed by potatoes at $690 million, wheat at $542 million, hay at $373.5 million, sugar beets at $247 million, and barley at $202 million.
Those totals do not include shrinkage and on-farm use.
While Idaho agriculture seems virtually assured of experiencing a record revenue year, it's also going to be a record cost year, said Drew Eggers, a Meridian farmer who grows wheat, sugar beets, silage corn and mint.
"A gross revenue year? Yes," he said. "Net? I can't really answer that question right now."
While dairy's spot at the top will not be threatened in 2011, Patterson said, the other top spots could face some shuffling. Potatoes' long-time position as the state's most lucrative crop could be threatened.
Wheat is likely to make a significant gain in total revenue because of higher prices, while the total value of hay production could exceed that of potatoes. However, a lot of hay is used on farms and ranches where it is produced and is not counted in the annual rankings calculated by UI, which only include actual sales.
Patterson said it's too early to make any predictions because prices could change and the final tallies also depend on how many acres are under contract at former prices.
"Potatoes are going to receive some competition from some of these other commodities because of the substantially improved prices they are getting," he said. "I think there could be some changes in terms of rankings of various commodities because of the production and price changes. Stay tuned."
Total spring and winter wheat acres in Idaho were up 3 percent to 1.45 million acres this year, while potato acres totaled 320,000 acres, an increase of 25,000 acres from 2010.
Hay acres declined 7 percent to 1.37 million acres, but hay prices are significantly higher than last year.
Beef production numbers in Idaho have been on the decline, but higher prices could be enough to keep cattle and calves in the No. 2 spot this year.