Bringing the Economy Home

Idaho’s Farm Income Growth Dwarfs National Gains

Damien Meyer / AFP/Getty Images

This is a boom time for agriculture, and Idaho’s upswing far outpaces national growth.  While total U.S. net farm income soared from 2010 to 2011, rising by 28 percent, a report released today shows the state’s net farm income rose by 88 percent in the same period.

Report co-author Paul Patterson, an agricultural economist, says there’s a simple explanation for the disparity.  “If you look at the crops that we have in our mix compared to the U.S., we have better overall price increases for the crops that we produce in Idaho compared to the nation as a whole,” he said.  Hay is one example.  It’s a bigger crop in Idaho than in many states.  According to the report’s estimates, hay prices went up by 74 percent in 2011.  Potatoes are another case in point.  “It’s our number-one crop in Idaho,” Patterson said, “but nationally it’s considered a minor crop.”  Potato prices are estimated to have risen by 38 percent.

Patterson cautions that net farm income numbers can be volatile, and that the numbers included in the report are early estimates that could be revised.

In the what-goes-up-must-come-down world of commodity prices, 2012 is not projected to bring new highs.  Patterson says that’s a simple function of supply and demand.  Given high commodity prices, farmers have put more land into production.  Meanwhile, Patterson says, demand has remained relatively stable.  In other words, he says, “the probability of us seeing new records next year is pretty remote.”


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