SPOKANE, Wash.-The Northwest agricultural industry remains strong, in the midst of continued volatility, supported by strengthening financial positions for most producers and favorable markets. Excellent yields and high prices are resulting in good profits for apple, wheat and sugarbeet growers, while tight supplies are bolstering returns for cow-calf and hay producers. Exceptions include thin profit margins for dairy producers and low open market potato prices. The weak housing market continues to inhibit recovery in forest products and nursery industries, but U.S. consumers continue to purchase more wine despite slow growth in the domestic economy.
Potato markets are weak heading into 2013, pressured by increased production. While contract potato prices are providing growers with profitable returns, open potato prices are well below producers' breakeven positions. Open market growers have opted to store potatoes, anticipating improved prices this spring. Exports and feed uses are expected to provide additional, but limited market support for the rest of the season.