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The market next year may change

by Ty Beaver 9/27/07 Herald and News

   Klamath Basin hay growers have enjoyed a strong market for their product this season.
   An increase in demand along with less acreage are the primary reasons for the upswing in the market, experts say. The result is hay prices between $30 and $40 a ton higher in Oregon and California compared to last year.
   “There just isn’t enough to go around,” said Pete Bourdet, an organic hay grower in northern Klamath County.
   Supreme and premium alfalfa for domestic cattle was selling as high as $38 a ton more than last year in California and nearly $30 more in Lake County.
   Willie Riggs, director of the Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center, said hay prices were high since early in the season when the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported low inventories. With growers opting to grow other crops such as corn for ethanol, prices were kept up due to less acreage dedicated to forage.
   Biofuels impact
   Likewise, the rise in grain prices because of demand from the biofuels industry has made it harder for ranchers and dairies to feed their cattle as much corn as they would normally.
   “With the price of corn as it is, they can blend a little bit more hay in,” Riggs said.
   Bourdet said he’s experienced a particularly good year. He grows hay and ships it north, mainly for organic dairies in Washington. He also credited the decrease in hay acreage, especially in California, for the price surge.
   The market may not be the same way next year, though, Bourdet said. With prices so attractive this year, growers may be drawn back into forage and drive the market back down.
   “Sometimes farmers are our own worst enemies,” he said.
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