Housing market continues to take toll on producers; some crops rise in rankings
By MITCH LIES
Cherries and onions are bright spots in recently released agricultural statistics for 2010 Oregon crop values.
Cherries cracked Oregon's top 10 list for the first time, coming in 10th, with $77 million in farm-gate value last year.
Meanwhile, onions generated a 27 percent farm-gate increase from 2009, rejoining the top 10 list for the first time since 2006.
Onions came in at $130 million last year, ranking eighth among the state's agricultural commodities, according to the Oregon Agricultural Statistics Service.
Nursery crops continue to lead Oregon commodities, with $667 million in farm-gate value. But nursery and grass seed, which ranks sixth at $256 million, lagged well behind their previous highs.
Nursery has dropped 36 percent in value from 2007, when it became Oregon's first $1 billion crop. Grass seed, which ranked as high as No. 2 in recent years, has declined nearly 50 percent since 2008 from a high that year of $510 million.
The report shows that grass seed and nursery values are intrinsically tied to the housing starts, which have plummeted during the recession, said Roger Beyer, executive director of the Oregon Seed Council.
"It shows that we're joined at the hip with the timber industry," Beyer said. "They need housing starts, too, in order to sell lumber and logs."
Cattle and calves, ranked No. 2 at $493 million, are down from their 2005 value of $533 million, but up from the $426 million in value in 2008.
Wheat, at No. 4, rebounded from the $180 million production value of 2005 to $442 million last year due largely to higher acreage and yields.
No. 5 milk increased 35 percent in value over 2009, posting its highest value in six years at $415 million.
Overall, Oregon crop values increased 7 percent between 2009 and 2010, but remain well below the $4.9 billion Oregon crops were worth at the farm gate in 2007 and 2008.