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Klamath agriculture sales up and down in 2005

Potatoes and cattle sales saw increases
by HOLLY OWENS H&N Staff Writer

   Agricultural sales in Klamath County saw ups and downs in 2005, a report shows.
   Potato sales were up by an estimated 34 percent, and cattle, the county and state’s No. 1 commodity, saw a slight increase of 4 percent. Grains as a whole in the county, including wheat, barley, oats and rye, saw a decrease 16 percent.
   Klamath County dropped from eighth to ninth place in the state for agricultural sales, contributing $201 million to the state’s $4.1 billion total. Marion County came in first with $540 million in sales.
   Cattle came in first for agricultural sales in Klamath County once again, earning nearly $72.6 million, an increase of 4 percent from 2004. Record-level prices have been seen for the last three years or so, motivated by a change in consumer diet with a trend toward highprotein consumption, according to Ron Hathaway, staff chair of the Klamath County Extension Service.
   “It was sort of a change in attitude about diets and it was OK to eat beef again,” Hathaway said.
   A change in diet has been reflected in the restaurant industry, too, Hathaway said.
   “The demand has been there for the higher-end products — and we consume lots of hamburger in this country,” Hathaway said. “The demand for beef has been really strong.”
   It was a record-breaking year for the state with an increase of 5 percent from 2004, with the highest annual agricultural earnings estimate recorded since Oregon State University Extension Service began compiling the data three decades ago.
   “While breaking the $4 billion mark is noteworthy, 2005 can best be described as a good but not necessarily great year for Oregon agriculture,” said Larry Burt, an OSU Extension economist and the primary author and coordinator of the annual report.
   “Price instability and market volatility depressed earnings in some sectors of the farm and ranch economy,” Burt added. “On the other hand, several commodities enjoyed significant growth in value of sales in 2005.”
   Grain growers throughout the state have been trying to balance acreage with commodity prices.
   “A statewide average yield for grain crops of 61 bushels per acre — the best in four years — was more than offset by a statewide decline in grain acreage of more than 5 percent to about 856,000 acres,” Burt said. “On top of this, wheat prices sank to the lowest level in four years to $3.50 per bushel.”
   Potato producers saw the steepest rise in sales with a 34 percent increase from 2004. An estimated increase of $3 per hundredweight was seen for Klamath County growers.
   Part of the driving force behind higher sales was fewer potatoes. Acreage was reduced from 2004, and yields were down, too. Land used to grow potatoes was reduced by 1,350 acres, for 4,600 acres total, and yields were down by 30 hundredweight per acre.
   Weather played a large part in reducing yields.
   “Last year we had a miserable April in terms of a wet, cold start and so it got growers behind,” said Kerry Locke, row crop agent with the extension service. “The growers that tried to force their potatoes in early generally didn’t have the yield and quality that they would like to have had, and the growers that kind of held off in terms of not trying to force their operations early had a better yield and quality.”
   Acreage has been reduced by growers throughout the Basin as part of a nationwide cooperative, United Potato Growers of America. United has also been coordinating distribution of the crop in an effort to keep extra potatoes from glutting the market.
   The Basin’s potato growers in the past have been at the mercy of the open market, competing with largescale growers in Washington state and Idaho. The market has changed for growers in the Basin, something that can be credited to the cooperative efforts of potato growers nationwide through United, according to Locke.
   “I think we’re starting to see some positive effects from that cooperative,” Locke said.
   Throughout the state an increase of only 3 percent in potato sales was realized. Potatoes ranked 10th in the state for gross dollar sales out of 79 commodities tracked.
H&N photo by Gary Thain Cattle graze in a pasture off Modoc Point Road Wednesday. Cattle was Klamath County’s biggest agricultural contributor was cattle in 2005 with 72.5 million in sales.





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