BOISE — For the first time in six years, University of Idaho agricultural economist Garth Taylor had bad news to report to lawmakers about total revenue from Idaho agriculture.
During UI’s annual report to Idaho legislators on the health of Idaho agriculture Jan. 8, Taylor projected farm cash receipts in Idaho were down 9 percent in 2015 compared with 2014.
The 2015 decrease follows five straight years of increases in Idaho farm cash receipts.
According to projections by Taylor and UI ag economist Ben Eborn, farm cash receipts in Idaho totaled $7.87 billion in 2015, down $800 million from 2014’s record total of $8.66 billion.
Idaho net farm income totaled a projected $1.34 billion in 2015, down 31 percent from 2014. Net farm income in Idaho reached a record $2 billion in 2013.
Those forecasts, which are based on the calendar year, are contained in UI’s annual “The Financial Condition of Idaho Agriculture” report, which was released Jan. 8.
According to the report, revenue from milk, Idaho’s top farm commodity in terms of cash receipts, totaled $2.3 billion in 2015, down 27 percent from 2014’s record total of $3.2 billion.
But revenue from cattle and calves reached a record $2.2 billion in Idaho in 2015, 8 percent more than in 2014.
On the crop side, Idaho wheat revenue dropped 17 percent to $506 million, hay receipts totaled $485 million, a 12 percent decline from 2014, and potato revenue was off 3 percent, to $871 million.
Cash receipts for sugar beets increased 19 percent to $300 million and barley revenue rose 7 percent to $286 million.
Total crop revenue was $3 billion in 2015, down 3 percent from 2014, and livestock revenue totaled $4.8 billion, off 13 percent.
With the ethanol boom over, farm exports off significantly because of a strong U.S. dollar, and huge grain stocks, 2016 likely won’t be much better than 2015 for U.S. farmers, Taylor said.
“We’re looking at another tough year for agriculture ... in 2016,” he said.
Taylor told legislators that although farm income is down, agriculture remains a strong part of the state’s economy.
Farmers and livestock owners will continue to spend money to raise crops and care for their animals regardless of where prices are at and that economic activity will continue to benefit local communities, he said.
“It doesn’t make a difference whether milk is at $11 a hundredweight or $22, that cow still has to be fed and milked,” he said. “All those ripple effects will stay in (play) in those communities.”
He also said that gross state product from farming has grown at an average rate of 4.7 percent since 1997, while Idaho GSP has grown at 2.9 percent. Agribusiness accounts for 20 percent of total sales in Idaho, 14 percent of jobs and 16 percent of GSP, he added.
“Production agriculture is one of the fastest growing segments of Idaho’s economy,” Taylor said. And, he added, “agribusiness is the largest business in the state of Idaho.”