Friday, January 6, 2012

Idaho farmers harvest record income in 2011

The Associated Press reports this morning that farmers and ranchers in Idaho cleaned up in 2011.

The basis for the story is a report released Thursday by the University of Idaho projecting farm cash receipts for 2011 at $7.4 billion, a 29 percent increase compared with 2010 (which wasn't too shabby itself -- farm cash receipts increased that year by 12 percent.)

UI economist Garth Taylor says nearly every crop and livestock sector posted strong gains in 2011. The report shows farm net income, or the money farmers and ranchers kept, fared even better and rose 88 percent last year to $2.6 billion.

The familiar calls for ending farmers' subsidies are bound to start erupting right about now. But in our focus on high tech, retail and home construction, it would be unwise to underestimate multiplier effect of agriculture in a state like Idaho. Farmers and their spouses buy trucks and cars, groceries and clothing, ATVs and DVDs, etc. Imagine what the local economy would be like without agriculture.

The other thing to bear in mind is that while commodity prices have been high, they are cyclical. A strong dollar can dampen exports, and the Euro's problems are driving people to the dollar. Let's hope the rest of Idaho's economy has recovered by the time farm prices crater, as they inevitably do.

Here is a link to the report, called The Financial Condition of Idaho Agriculture: http://www.cals.uidaho.edu/aers/PDF/outlooks/financialcond2011.pdf