Grass Seed Was Generally Profitable for Growers in 1998

PULLMAN, Wash. — With roots in a surprisingly strong U.S. economy, the Pacific Northwest Grass Seed industry provided one of the few green spots in the agricultural economy in 1998. However, economists see danger signs on the horizon in 1999.

Larry Lev, an Oregon State University extension economist, gave this assessment in the 1999 Pacific Northwest Agricultural Situation and Outlook Report, released Wednesday (Dec. 30) by Washington State University, University of Idaho and Oregon State University economists.

Lev said the grass seed industry’s performance was outstanding, compared to other crops producers could grow. Grains, mint and row crops floundered, the economist said, while grass seed generally provided profitable returns.

A 10 percent increase in new housing starts and new golf course construction combined to support grass seed sales. With only about 10 percent of U.S. grass seed production sold in international markets, the domestic industry wasn’t heavily impacted by Asia’s economic woes.

Lev said Pacific Northwest grass seed exports fell 8 percent for the year, but total sales increased 2 percent.

However, Lev warned, “Seed movement has slowed and stocks are beginning to build.”

The poor economic outlook for alternate crops will encourage farmers to increase grass seed acreage by 5 percent to 10 percent, Lev said. Assuming normal yields, this additional production added to increased carry over stocks will dampen prices.

“Many in the industry fear that 1999 will mark the end of a string of relatively successful years dating back to 1993,” Lev said.

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