IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - Idaho agriculture will earn record cash receipts for a third consecutive year, and for the fourth time in the past six years, according to the University of Idaho.
UI Extension economist Garth Taylor said cash receipts will be up roughly 7 percent from $7.6 billion in 2012. Precise numbers won't be released until UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean John Foltz's presentation to the state Legislature during the first week of January.
Idaho agriculture, which has doubled in value during the past 15 years, represents the largest sector of the state's economy, at 20 percent.
Taylor attributes this year's continued growth largely to "a phenomenal increase in international exports." Foreign exports should set another record in 2013, up by about 8 percent, he said. China wasn't previously a major importer of Idaho agricultural goods but rose to third on the state's export list this year.
Since 2001, Taylor said Idaho has shifted from a crop-based to a livestock-based agricultural economy. Cash receipts from livestock will total $4.3 billion in 2013, up 7 percent, with receipts up 8 percent from cattle and calves and up 6 percent for milk, according to UI estimates.
Crop receipts, valued at $3.5 billion, will decrease 1 percent from the prior year. Major commodities that increased revenue include: potatoes, up 1 percent, barley, up 10 percent, hay, up 6 percent, and dry beans, up 9 percent. Sugar beet revenue dropped by 23 percent, and wheat revenue dropped 8 percent.
Producers of two major Idaho commodities have had to increase yields significantly throughout the years to offset price declines. From 1980 to 2012, the dairy sector - which accounts for 32 percent of Idaho exports - increased production by 142 percent, and the number of cows in Idaho increased by 125 percent. The value of milk, however, has gone down by 43 percent in real dollars.
During that 30-year period, the production value of Idaho potatoes, which account for 16 percent of the state's agricultural foreign exports, has risen by 25 percent, despite prices that have dropped 28 percent in real dollars.
Though Idaho's 2013 agricultural production was worth more money, it hasn't necessarily translated into greater profits for producers. Idaho's net farm income will make a slight dip of $22 million in 2013. Taylor emphasized expenses have risen and government program payments have declined.
Looking forward, Taylor is optimistic for agriculture, due largely to the continued strength of the beef and dairy markets. Furthermore, he envisions no significant increases in expenses such as fuel and fertilizer.
"I think we could see another slight increase in total sales next year," Taylor said.
Nationwide, Doug Robison, with Northwest Farm Credit Services, anticipates an agricultural market in the coming year that's "somewhat softer, certainly compared to what we've seen in the past few years, but not to the point where we'll see major losses."