'After two difficult years,' Oregon farm revenue surpasses 2009 record
By MITCH LIES
Oregon agriculture sales topped $5 billion last year for the first time, jumping 19.1 percent from $4.4 billion in 2010 to $5.2 billion in 2011, according to an Oregon State University extension economist.
The milestone comes three years after sales hit a record $4.9 billion in 2008. Sales slid to as low as $4.1 billion in 2009.
"After two difficult years, Oregon agricultural sales have recovered from the impacts of the recession," said economist Bill Boggess, executive associate dean of Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences. "It was a much-needed good year for the state's farmers and ranchers."
"This growth comes on the heels of some challenging times and down years, but generally, 2011 was a great year for our producers," said Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
The 19.1 percent upturn over 2010 marks the largest annual increase in sales since a 20.6 percent increase in 1979, said extension economist Bart Eleveld, who compiled the report.
As in 2010, cattle was the state's top commodity, with sales rising 12.8 percent to just under $800 million. Much of that increase can be attributed to droughts in parts of the Midwest and Southwest, which forced ranchers to cut back herds, according to Chad Mueller, an OSU cattle expert in Union, Ore.
Dairy products moved from third in 2010 to second last year, generating $524 million in sales, a gain of 10.8 percent.
Wheat moved from fourth to third with sales of $521.5 million, up 47.3 percent from 2010. The increased sales came from a combination of increased acreage and higher yields, OSU wheat breeder Bob Zemetra said.
Nursery crops, which like grass seed are tied to the housing market, continued to struggle, moving down two notches to fourth place. Still, nursery sales increased slightly to $516.4 million, a 0.7 percent increase over 2010.
Overall, grass and legume sales grew 32 percent between 2010 and 2011, from $256 million in 2010 to the $340 million. That would have ranked them fifth, but the report segregated sales by species. Perennial ryegrass was the highest ranking grass seed commodity, ranking 14th, with $90 million in sales in 2011.
Alfalfa hay ranked fifth in the report, jumping 55 percent to $272 million, thanks in large part to higher prices, Mylen Bohle, an agronomist with OSU extension, said.
Harvested land statewide totaled 3.18 million acres in 2011, compared with 3.14 million in 2010.
Marion County reported the most sales at $617 million, up from $568 million in 2010.
The report includes fishing industry sales for the first time. At $91.5 million, fishing sales ranked 13th. Agriculture sales were up 17 percent without the fishing sales, and still topped $5 billion.