PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Oregon farmers enjoyed a big year as droughts in other parts of the world boosted prices for wheat and alfalfa hay.

The state's farming, ranching and fishing industries grossed a record $5.2 billion last year, a 19 percent increase from 2010.

The Oregonian newspaper (http://bit.ly/Itm0aZ) reports that the percentage is inflated because commercial fishing sales were included for the first time. But even without the $91 million from fishing, farm sales increased 17 percent and total sales set a record.

Cattle ranked first among products, crops and commodities, grossing nearly $800 million. Dairy placed second with $524 million in sales. Wheat ranked third at $521 million, a total that has more than doubled in two years.

Many Willamette Valley farmers have converted grass seed fields to wheat because of greater demand, said Bart Eleveld, an economist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Grass seed -- used for lawns, parks and sports fields -- is tied to development activity, and the need for it sagged during the recession.

Farmers opted to plant wheat instead, and were able to easily convert their fields because the same equipment is used for both, Eleveld said.

The switch paid off. Wheat prices stayed strong last year because of drought and fire in wheat regions such as Russia and Australia. Eleveld said 2012 is expected to be another strong year for the crop.

Alfalfa hay, used to feed livestock, also surged in 2011. The sales of $272 million were almost $100 million more than the year before. Eleveld said a drought increased the demand and the price: "We have hay and they don't."


Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

Copyright 2012 The AP.

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