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Idaho ag set record, but net farm income down

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

BOISE – Despite a severe drought and early season heat wave that depressed production, Idaho set a record for total farm cash receipts in 2021.

But farm and ranch expenses in Idaho also reached a record level in 2021 and total net farm income in the state declined by 8 percent last year compared with 2020.

That’s according to University of Idaho’s, “The Financial Condition of Idaho Agriculture: 2021” report, which was released to state lawmakers Jan. 6.

The annual report by UI agricultural economists is the first estimate of how Idaho farmers and ranchers fared during the previous year.

USDA state-level estimates of farm cash receipts and net farm income are released in late August.  

Farm cash receipts is the revenue farmers and ranchers receive directly for their commodity and net farm income – total farm revenue minus costs – is the producer’s bottom line, or paycheck.

According to the Financial Condition report, Idaho farmers and ranchers brought in $8.88 billion in farm cash receipts during 2021, which was 9 percent higher than the 2020 total and above the previous record of $8.79 billion set in 2014.

Despite severe drought and heat that significantly reduced most crop yields in Idaho, “We broke an all-time record high in cash receipts in 2021,” UI Agricultural Economist Garth Taylor told legislators Jan. 6.

That’s because prices for most of the state’s main agricultural commodities were up significantly last year compared with 2020, said Taylor, one of the report’s co-authors.

But enthusiasm surrounding the record is tempered by significantly increased farm input costs, Taylor added.

“The expenses for 2021 are eating us up,” he said.  

According to the report, total farm and ranch expenses in Idaho totaled a record $7.84 billion in 2021, which was an 8 percent increase over 2020.

When expenses are subtracted from total farm and ranch revenue, which includes things like government payments, machine hire and custom work, total net farm income in Idaho in 2021 is estimated at $2.39 billion, which is 8 percent below the record level of $2.6 billion set in 2020 and also below the 2019 total of $2.53 billion.

UI ag economists attributed the higher expenses to 12 percent increases in farm origin (feed, seed and replacement livestock purchases) and manufactured (fertilizer, chemicals and fuels) inputs.

All other inputs, including labor, property taxes and fees, and payments to stakeholders, increased by percentages ranging from 3-7 percent compared with 2020.

According to the Financial Condition of Idaho Agriculture report for 2021, total cash receipts for Idaho’s top seven agricultural commodities increased in 2021 compared with 2020.

Cash receipts for Idaho’s dairy industry totaled an estimated $3.1 billion in 2021, which was a 3 percent increase over 2020, and cash receipts for the state’s cattle and calves industry increased by 13 percent, to $1.8 billion.

Idaho’s top crop, potatoes, brought in a record $1 billion in cash receipts during 2020, according to the report. That was an 8 percent increase over 2020.

Cash receipts for Idaho’s wheat industry totaled $560 million in 2021, a 3 percent increase, and cash receipts for the state’s hay farmers totaled $554 million, a 21 percent increase compared with 2020.

Idaho sugar beet farmers brought in $396 million during 2021, 19 percent more than during 2020, and Idaho barley growers brought in $246 million in cash receipts last year, a 3 percent increase.

In almost every case, the higher cash receipts were due to higher prices and not production, which was reduced due to last year’s drought conditions and extreme heat.

For example, total Idaho wheat production declined 32 percent last year but that crop brought in 3 percent more in cash receipts.

Barley production in Idaho declined by 21 percent last year but cash receipts for that crop also increased by 3 percent.

Idaho potato production was down 2 percent last year despite the fact that farmers planted 15,000 more acres in 2021. However, cash receipts for Idaho spuds increased by 8 percent last year.

Taylor said growth in total gross domestic product from Idaho’s agricultural industry has outpaced growth in total Idaho GDP over the past few decades.

Most of that growth in farm GDP in the state has been driven by production agriculture and not food processing, he added.

From 1997 to 2020, total Idaho farm GDP grew by 200 percent, while total Idaho GDP grew by 90 percent, Taylor said.

Total GDP from Idaho’s food processing industry grew by 60 percent during that time, he added.

Agriculture “is a growth industry for the state of Idaho,” Taylor said. “And it’s grandma and grandpa on a tractor that is driving that growth.”