Western Idaho Ag Expo

Ryan Miles, left, owner of Gem State Seed in Nampa, visits with Herb Blaser, of Blaser Farms east of Kuna, at the Alforex Seeds booth during the Western Idaho Ag Expo Jan. 29 in Caldwell.

CALDWELL, Idaho — Farmers this year have some new opportunities to profit despite continued low commodity prices and rising costs, exhibitors at the Western Idaho Ag Expo say.

The event was Jan. 29-30 in Caldwell.

Drivers of potentially higher profit include yield-increasing and labor-saving innovations.

Tom Miles, Western regional sales manager with Alforex Seeds, an alfalfa and forage player with operations in southwest Idaho, said he’s cautiously optimistic about 2019. Demand could be a bit higher than in 2018, “but we’ll see,” he said.

“When prices are low, the best thing producers can do is to try to get the most bang for their buck,” he said.

Targeting the highest yield and quality per unit by working with the best genetics is one way to do that as alfalfa hay prices are up a bit from a year ago but milk prices — an indicator of feed demand — remain low, Miles said. Hay acreage could increase slightly this year, he said. Alfalfa seed genetics continue to improve, which bodes well for yield and quality.

Justin Blakesley, Nampa-based CEO of Adams Grain Bins, said the company already is booked with planned installations through the first half of the growing season. Demand appears to be slightly higher than in 2018.

Some growers need new storage because their output increased, as they took on additional fields or boosted yields, he said. And even growers who sold grain may need more storage thanks to increasing yields.

Storing grain can enable growers to delay sales until prices rise. Blakesley said technical advancements enable bins to store grain harvested at traditional times or even earlier, when the crop contains more moisture.

Mark Jones, Meridian-based district sales manager with T-L Irrigation Co., expects a continued move away from furrow irrigation and hand lines, and toward more efficient systems such as pivot and linear sprinklers. Systems that are smartphone-controlled for immediacy and GPS-enabled for precision can improve farm efficiency in a tight labor market, he said.

At Meridian-based Mountain View Equipment, which sells and services farm machinery and specializes in forage equipment, Precision Farming Systems Specialist Phil Shoemaker said he expects demand for new equipment to be lower than in 2018 and 2017, as commodity prices and the dairy economy remain down. But demand should be higher for parts, and about the same or higher for repairs, he said.

Simplicity, a Redmond, Ore.-based sister company of Hayden Homes, provides stick-built housing that complies with federal H-2A guestworker program standards. T.J. Bowles, new home advisor based in southwest Idaho, said demand has been growing in the Northwest in recent years.

Southwest Idaho is slated for new Simplicity housing units this year. Bowles said the company soon will break ground on seven separate housing units for workers at a large hop farm in the area, as the state’s hop industry keeps growing.

The farm, which has been renting housing in a tight market, has an opportunity to save money in the long run, he said.

field reporter, SW Idaho and SE Oregon

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