Idaho farm sector posted big rise in personal income in 2014

Onions are planted in a field near Wilder, Idaho, March 30. Personal income in Idaho's farming sector increased 19.7 percent in 2014 and helped drive the state's 5.3 percent increase in total personal income.

BOISE — Idaho’s significant gain in total personal income last year was driven in part by a large increase in farm income and profits.

Total Idaho personal income increased 5.3 percent in 2014, the sixth fastest rate in the nation, according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data summarized by the Idaho Department of Labor.

But personal income — the value of all wages, profits, investment earnings and government transfer payments such as unemployment benefits — in Idaho’s farming sector rose 19.7 percent to $3.32 billion.

No other sector of the state’s economy, except forestry, which is a tiny piece of the overall pie, saw its personal income rise by more than 9.5 percent in 2014.

Farm personal income in Idaho has grown from $2.37 billion in 2012 to $2.77 billion in 2013 and $3.32 billion in 2014.

Idaho farm business profits increased 26 percent, from $1.98 billion in 2013 to $2.5 billion in 2014, and drove the state’s 11.4 percent gain in overall business profits, the highest in the nation.

Without the farming sector, overall business profits in Idaho would have increased just 5.7 percent in 2014, said IDL spokesman Bob Fick.

The stellar performance by Idaho’s agricultural sector in recent years has underpinned the state’s emergence from the last recession and it’s been a big lift to small rural communities that depend on farming, said Dan Cravens, an IDL regional labor economist in Southeast Idaho.

“It’s been a real game-changer in some of these small rural communities .. and has contributed to the overall job recovery we are having in Idaho,” he said.

However, the state’s string of four straight years of record farm cash receipts almost surely will come to an end in 2015 and the large gains in personal farm income experienced over the last three year will also cease this year, according to University of Idaho agricultural economists.

“It’s been an unbelievable run,” said UI ag economist Garth Taylor “But this is (the year) the records stop.”

Idaho’s record last year for farm receipts was driven largely by the state’s livestock industry. Dairy and beef are Idaho’s top two farm commodities when it comes to cash receipts and prices for both were at record or near-record levels throughout 2014.

Beef prices are still near record levels but the state’s dairy industry is in for a big correction when it comes to total revenue, said UI ag economist Paul Patterson.

Based on forecast dairy prices for 2015, total cash receipts from the state’s dairy sector could decrease by $600-800 million in 2015, Patterson said.

Crop prices were already weakening last year and that decrease has continued into 2015, he said.

Patterson said it’s likely Idaho agriculture “is going to lose some of its shine” this year.

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