Oregon's farmers, ranchers and fishing industry grossed a record $5.2 billion in 2011 – thanks to higher commodity prices, according to a report by the Oregon State University Extension Service.
Sales were up 19.1 percent from a revised $4.4 billion in 2010, the largest percentage increase since a 20.6 percent jump in 1979, said Bart Eleveld, the OSU Extension Service economist who compiled the report. It contains estimates for gross farmgate sales for 2011 and revised numbers for 2010 and 2009.
The last sales record was set in 2008 when sales were $4.9 billion. They plunged 15.1 percent in 2009, marking the biggest percentage drop in more than 30 years. Sales rebounded 5.8 percent in 2010.
"After two difficult years, Oregon agricultural sales have recovered from the impacts of the recession," said economist Bill Boggess, the executive associate dean of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. "It was a much needed good year for the state’s farmers and ranchers, who play an increasingly vital role in Oregon’s economy and also keep food on our plates."
Of the 89 commodities identified in the report, 66 increased in sales compared with 2010.
Cattle was again the top commodity, with sales rising 12.8 percent to $799.8 million as droughts in Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas decreased the amount of grass for grazing and forced ranchers in those states to cut back their herds, said Chad Mueller, an OSU cattle expert in Union, Ore. Although U.S. inventories dropped, demand from consumers continued, so prices rose, he said.
Dairy products advanced from third place into the No. 2 slot at $523.9 million with a gain of 10.8 percent, fueled by rebounding milk prices, said Troy Downing, the dairy specialist with the OSU Extension Service.
Wheat moved from fourth place into third place with sales of $521.5 million, up 47.3 percent on a combination of increased acreage and yields, said OSU's wheat breeder, Bob Zemetra.
"It was an excellent year for wheat in terms of weather," Zemetra said. "It was also an excellent year for stripe rust disease, but farmers who applied fungicides or used varieties resistant to it had good crops. Yields were probably 30-40 percent higher than normal in parts of eastern Oregon."
Nursery crops moved down two notches to fourth place, but still managed to eke out a slight 0.7 percent increase to $516.4 million. Continued weakness in new home sales curbed the demand for landscaping, said economist Robin Cross, an OSU research associate who tracks the nursery industry.
Alfalfa hay again finished fifth with a 54.9 percent jump to $272.2 million thanks to higher prices for it, said Mylen Bohle, an agronomist with the OSU Extension Service in central Oregon. He added that with stronger milk prices, dairies were able to afford better quality – and thus more expensive – alfalfa hay.
For the first time, the report included commercial fishing sales, which were $91.5 million and were No. 13 on the list. If they hadn't been included, total sales would have increased 17 percent instead of the 19.1 percent but still would have set a record.
Marion County again led the state, reporting the most sales at $616.9 million, up from $568.2 million in the previous year.
Harvested land statewide totaled 3,184,326 acres in 2011 compared with 3,141,071 acres a year earlier. Of the 2011 total, grains accounted for 1,096,529 acres and hays and forage made up 1,025,764 acres.
The report, "2011 Oregon County and State Agricultural Estimates," is funded by the OSU Extension Service and is available online.
The publication and many more estimates, including detailed historical and countywide data from 1976 onward, also are online via the Oregon Agricultural Information Network.
To compile the data, each year more than 70 OSU faculty members across the state estimate production based on observations and conversations with producers and others in agricultural businesses.