Hay Producers Face Another Gloomy Season

PULLMAN, Wash. — 1999’s first hay crop is growing, but economic prospects for Washington hay producers aren’t. Agricultural economists see another year of gloom for hay growers.

Neil Rimbey, University of Idaho range economist, Caldwell, said Northwest hay supplies are at record high levels following a mild winter, which reduced hay consumption.

Rimbey said a long cold spring could prolong the winter feeding season for cattle, sheep and horses and slow growth of the region’s first hay cutting. This would bolster prices.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Prospective Planting report issued March 31 indicates a small decline in Northwest hay acreage in 1999. Washington growers reported they expect to reduce acreage by 4 percent, to 720,000 acres. Oregon growers plan to reduce acreage 7 percent, to 900,000 acres. Idaho farmers indicate they will maintain the 1.43-million acre figure from 1998.

This could lead to production of 11.5-million to 12-million tons and record high hay supplies in 1999, in the neighborhood of 13.5-million to 14- million tons.

Rimbey’s assessment was released today as part of the 1999 Pacific Northwest Agricultural Situation and Outlook Report. His full report is available here.

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