OLYMPIA — Agricultural production in Washington dropped 2% to $9.67 billion in 2018 with apples as the top value commodity for the 14th year in a row, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Apples represented 23% of the state’s total agricultural value at $2.19 billion, down 10% from $2.43 billion in 2017. The record high was $2.48 billion in 2012.
Trade issues with Mexico, India and China were largely responsible for the decline in apples, said Desmond O’Rourke, world apple analyst and retired Washington State University agricultural economist.
“The 2% overall decline is a normal swing and rather insignificant given the global market nature of many of these commodities. It’s really a pretty strong performance particularly on the crop side given all the tariffs and trade volatility,” O’Rourke said.
Milk remained in second place with a value of $1.13 billion in 2018, down 5% from 2017. Wheat stayed in third at $845 million, up 22% from the previous year.
“Wheat was up from a long-term depressed situation. Washington wheat value of production between 2011 and 2013 averaged $1.1 billion annually. The $845 million is a bounce back up from a lot of bad years,” O’Rourke said.
Potatoes, valued at $788 million, were the fourth highest and up 15% from the previous year. Cattle and calves rounded out the top five with a value of $652 million, down 3%.
These five commodities had a combined value of $5.60 billion, or 58% of the 2018 value for all commodities, excluding government payments. In 2017, the same five commodities had a combined value of $5.67 billion.
Hay ranked sixth at $519 million, up 0.7%. Hops were seventh at $427 million, down 6.8%. Cherries were eighth at $426 million, down 10.1%. Grapes hit a record high of $361 million, up 13%, staying in ninth place.
Eggs replaced pears in 10th place at $241 million, up 70%. Brian Bookey, president of National Food, Everett, one of the state’s largest egg producers questions the accuracy of that increase. NASS stood by the data, saying the 70% increase in value was driven by price, not supply. Bookey questioned that.
Pears dropped to $211 million, down 15%.
Notable commodities outside the top 10 that showed significant increases included onions at $178 million, up 10%, and blueberries at $139 million, up 21%.
Barley increased 55% to $21.5 million. Canola increased 23% to $20.3 million. They are up as wheat farmers plant them as alternative crops, O’Rourke said.
Five of the top 10 commodities declined in value from the previous year, including apples, cattle and calves, hops, sweet cherries and pears.
Other notable commodities that declined in value in 2018 were raspberries at $35.9 million, down 38%, and green peas, down 21% to $22.8 million.
Washington was the top nationwide producer in apples, cherries, pears, hops, wrinkled seed peas, spearmint oil and asparagus.
Oregon was the top producer of blueberries. Idaho was first in potatoes, peppermint oil and barley.
California was No. 1 in apricots, grapes, peaches, dry onions, raspberries, strawberries, milk and milk cows.