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Idaho ag growing faster than U.S. as a whole

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – When it comes to farm cash receipts, Idaho agriculture has grown much faster than U.S. agriculture as a whole over the past two decades.

Based on data from USDA’s Economic Research Service, total farm cash receipts in Idaho from 1997-2017 grew 53 percent in real dollars, which are dollar values adjusted for inflation.

During that same time, U.S. farm cash receipts grew 21 percent, University of Idaho Agricultural Economist Garth Taylor said during UI’s annual “Idaho Ag Outlook Seminars” Dec. 11-13 in Idaho Falls, Burley and Caldwell.

Idaho’s growth in farm-gate receipts is due largely to the huge increase in income from the state’s dairy sector, he said.

Idaho’s dairy sector, the state’s top farm commodity in terms of cash receipts, began to explode in the late 1990s and farm cash receipts from milk in Idaho have grown 173 percent since 1997.

“Idaho agriculture is growing faster than the United States overall in cash receipts and it’s largely due to milk,” Taylor said.

While many states grow a lot of the big farm program cops such as corn and soybeans, more than half of Idaho’s farm cash receipts come from the livestock sector, primarily dairy and beef cattle.

When hay and other livestock feed, such as potato waste, sugar beet pulp and corn silage, are added in, “We’re looking at 75-80 percent of our state’s agricultural economy being related to livestock,” Taylor said. “Idaho is a different breed of cats than the U.S a whole when it comes to the structure of our agriculture.”

Within Idaho, total state gross domestic product from agriculture has increased 142 percent since 1997, based on U.S. Department of Commerce and Bureau of Economic Analysis data, Taylor said. During that same period, Idaho’s total GDP has grown 81 percent and food processing GDP has grown 14 percent.

The 142 percent growth in Idaho farm GDP “Is from farming, not agribusiness,” Taylor said. “This is stodgy old grandma and grandpa out on a tractor.”

He said he and fellow UI Agricultural Economist Ben Eborn had a hard time believing those numbers at first. “We ran these numbers and did it again and again and again,” he said.

Other highlights of Taylor’s presentation include:

  • When ranked by farm GDP as a percentage of a state’s total GDP, Idaho ranks No. 4 in the nation, behind South Dakota, Nebraska and North Dakota.

  • Idaho is an unchallenged No. 1 among the 11 Western states when it comes to total farm cash receipts on a per capita basis. No other state is even close. Idaho generated $4,287 in farm cash receipts per person in 2017, almost quadruple the total in California, which leads the nation in total farm receipts.

  • Agriculture and agribusiness is the state’s largest industry and generate, directly and indirectly, 16 percent of Idaho’s total GDP, 14 percent of its jobs and 20 percent of its sales.

Taylor said all these different data points show how important agriculture is to the state’s economy.

“We’re an ag-dependent state,” he said. “Farming and ranching are extremely important to Idaho.”