By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- Idaho now ranks No. 3 out of 11 western states in terms of total crop and livestock production value and is closing in on the No. 2 spot.
With a total of $7.4 billion in farm-gate receipts in 2011, Idaho passed Colorado ($7.1 billion) to grab the third spot behind Washington ($8.8 billion) and California ($43.9 billion).
The rankings were compiled by University of Idaho agricultural economist Ben Eborn and based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
Eborn said he began tracking the rankings three years ago "to illustrate to the state's decision makers that agriculture is big in Idaho and we need to act like it and support agriculture and (UI's) college of ag."
On a per capita basis, each Idahoan produces an average of $4,680 worth of crop and livestock commodities, far more than any other state in the west, including Washington ($1,289), Oregon ($1,206) and California ($1,166).
Eborn said that set of data serves as a "quick and easy way to see how important agriculture is to the state's economy. It shows you Idaho's economy is really dependent on agriculture."
The USDA data needed to compile the 2012 rankings won't be available until September but Eborn said it's safe to assume Idaho retained its No. 3 spot last year because it was less impacted by the drought than Colorado, which is more dependent on the livestock industry.
On a percentage basis, Idaho has been gaining quickly on Washington and UI ag economist Garth Taylor said it's possible Idaho could grab the No. 2 spot sooner rather than later.
"It's very doable for us to do that," he said.
The value of ag production in Idaho grew from $5.8 billion to $7.4 billion from 2010 to 2011 while in Washington it grew from $7.7 billion to $8.8 billion during that time.
The total value of crop and livestock production in Idaho has grown at an annual rate of 6.4 percent over the past 12 years, while it's grown at 4.4 percent in Washington, 4.7 percent in Oregon and 4.6 percent in California.
Idaho's total ag production value is much more reliant on livestock than Washington's and high crop prices could impact the total production value of livestock, said Eborn, a UI extension educator in Teton County.
Idaho produced $4 billion worth of livestock value in 2011 and $3.4 billion worth of crops, while $2.4 billion of Washington's $8.8 billion total came from livestock.
Oregon ranks fifth in total ag production in the West with $4.7 billion worth of ag production and is followed by Arizona ($4.4 billion), New Mexico ($3.9 billion), Montana ($3.4 billion), Utah ($1.6 billion), Wyoming ($1.5 billion) and Nevada ($700 million).
Eborn's rankings show that Idaho agriculture has grown in value from $4.7 billion in 2006 to $7.4 billion in 2011.
"It's the good ol' days in Idaho agriculture right now," Eborn said. "We ought to make hay while the sun is shining."