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Hay acreage up; prices stay high

Tam Moore, Capital Press Staff Writer 1/13/06

The latest news was expected Jan. 12 on how the rest of the selling season will play out for Western hay growers. Thatís when the U.S. Department of Agricultureís semi-annual estimate of hay left in stockpiles was to come out.

But news from the marketplace gives a hint. The most recent market news report, published before the Christmas holiday slowdown, showed no new transactions for alfalfa delivered to the bellwether Petaluma dairy district.

Sacramento Valley farmers were getting $195 a ton at their barn for Premium grade alfalfa, and the same grade hay averaged $190.29 on an adjusted basis in the Modesto area. Both Idaho and Washington had limited transactions at $140 a ton, and in Oregon prices for premium alfalfa ranged from a low of $121 a ton in far Eastern Oregon to $144 for some retail deals made in Klamath Falls.

Across the country, the National Agriculture Statistics Service put average alfalfa prices at $97.70 a ton in December. One year ago they were $92.10; the average 10 years ago was $77.20.

In short, despite a significant increase in alfalfa acreage planted in 2005, hay supplies look tight for the rest of the year.

Farmers across the country added 500,000 acres to their alfalfa plantings over what was harvested in 2004. The increase came at the expense of a 100,000-acre decrease in grass and grain hay production.




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