If possible, producers are urged to avoid selling at low point

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

Grass seed company executives are urging farmers to steer clear of selling bluegrass seed at rock-bottom prices.

Kevin Turner, production manager for The Scotts Co., and Steve Stilson, general manager of Dye Seed in Pomeroy, Wash., said if growers can hang on, their bluegrass seed could be worth much more in the future.

With acreage low, even a small boost in seed movement could dramatically increase the value of seed, they said.

"I think people need to take a look at how big a pile we have and not give it away," Turner said. "As soon as the market begins to generate usage, seed will be worth twice as much (as the 60 and 70 cents a pound some growers currently are receiving)."

"In my customers' hands, there is very little seed," Stilson said. "They don't have any inventory. When the economy turns, with the acreages where they are, I don't think the seed supply will be adequate."

The amount of seed being stored on farms, Turner and Stilson said, misrepresents the amount of seed available, because retailers aren't carrying normal loads.

"The barns are full, the pipeline isn't," Turner said. "It looks like a lot, but it's not."

In addition, Turner believes only about 50,000 acres will be in production next year, well below a normal year of 80,000 acres.

"That is the lowest (production acreage) we've seen in a long, long time," he said. "And I don't expect a high yield next year."

"Yield has been poor the last three crop years and acres have gone down every year," Stilson said. "The only reason we don't have historically high prices is because of the economy."

Turner estimated the industry has only about 60 million pounds on hand, with a 30 million pound carryover and 30 million pounds added to the pipeline with the new crop.

Normal usage, he said, is about 80 million pounds.

"I'm looking to growers to hold their horses," Turner said. "Don't panic. Don't give something away that has more value than you might otherwise think."

Steve Tubbs of Turf Merchants agrees: "If farmers have the wherewithal to hang on, they should," Tubbs said. "It's clear, what we have now is going to have to last us three or four years.

"I don't think people are going to rush back into grass seed crops."

Staff writer Mitch Lies is based in Salem. E-mail: mlies@capitalpress.com.

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