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Oct. 31, 2022

Contact: Sean Ellis, (208) 220-5428

Idaho ranks No. 1 in five ag commodities


POCATELLO – Idaho ranked No. 1 in the nation in five different ag commodity categories last year: potatoes, barley, alfalfa hay, peppermint oil and food trout.

The state also ranked No. 2 in the United States in 2021 in sugar beets and hops, No. 3 in milk and cheese production and total milk cows, No. 4 in dry onions, spring wheat and lentils, and No. 5 in dry edible beans, corn silage and dry edible peas.

The USDA data needed to compile rankings for 2022 will be released next fall.

Idaho ranked in the top 8 nationally in 22 different ag commodity categories last year despite the fact that the total value of agricultural production in Idaho dipped by 1 percent in 2021 compared with 2020.

That decrease on total ag production value was likely a result of last year’s severe drought conditions, which decreased yields and total production for most of the state’s major crops.

Before last year, the total value of Idaho ag production had increased for four straight years.

Idaho’s total agricultural production value in 2021 was $8.32 billion, down 1 percent from the 2020 value of $8.41 billion, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The total value of all crop production in Idaho last year was $3.3 billion, down 8 percent compared with 2020.

However, the total value of livestock production in Idaho last year was up 5 percent, to $5 billion.

Milk remained the state’s top ag commodity last year in value of production, at $3.1 billion, which was up 3 percent from 2020 and the second highest value of production on record for Idaho milk, behind the 2014 total of $3.2 billion.

Milk production continues to play an ever-increasing role in Idaho’s overall agricultural landscape and represented 37 percent of the state’s total agricultural production value in 2021. That was up from 36 percent in 2020 and 35 percent in 2019.

Cattle and calves remained in the No. 2 spot in Idaho for total value of production at $1.42 billion in 2021, up 13 percent from 2020.

Potatoes kept the No. 3 spot and remained Idaho’s top crop with a total value of production of $1.12 billion in 2021. That was a 14 percent increase over the 2020 total and a record, surpassing the previous high of $1.04 billion set in 2019.

Hay came in at No. 4 with $946 million in total production value 2021, an increase of 16 percent over 2020, and wheat ranked No. 5 in the state with a total value of production of $529 million, down 8 percent from the previous year.

The NASS value of production report differs slightly from farm cash receipt rankings because the value of production rankings include those parts of a crop that are used on the farm and not sold. For example, a lot of hay is used on the farm and does not show up in the rankings for farm cash receipts, which is the money producers receive for their product.

That’s why wheat ranks ahead of hay in the Idaho farm cash receipts rankings.

Those top 5 commodities – milk, cattle and calves, potatoes, hay and wheat – had a combined value of $7.1 billion, which accounted for 85 percent of the state’s 2021 production value for all ag commodities.

Those same five commodities accounted for 79 percent of the total value of Idaho agricultural production in 2020.

Rounding out the Top 10 Idaho ag commodities list in 2021 were sugar beets at No. 6 with $243 million, down 33 percent from 2020, barley ($239 million, down 12 percent), corn for grain ($149 million, up 20 percent), hops ($104 million, up 5 percent) and onions ($64 million, up 11 percent).

The total value of Idaho hop production topped $100 million for the first time last year and that Idaho ag commodity has increased in total value for nine straight years.

Idaho took over the No. 1 spot in the U.S. in 2020 for alfalfa hay production, which is probably no big surprise given the state’s sizable milk and cattle industries. Idaho ranked No. 3 in that category in 2019, behind Montana and California.

Idaho ranks No. 3 nationally in total number of milk cows and No. 11 in cattle and calves.

Idaho is a big cattle state and alfalfa hay plays a major role in feeding those animals, said Twin Falls County farmer Larry Hollifield.

“We have a lot of animals to feed in Idaho,” he said.

The state’s cooler climate makes Idaho a great place to grow alfalfa hay, said Bannock County hay farmer Fred Burmester. And in East Idaho, the higher altitude is also favorable to growing hay, he added.

“That’s where you get your quality from, the higher altitude,” he said. Between the cooler nights and higher altitude, “that brings the relative feed value of your hay up.”

“It has a lot to do with the weather,” said Twin Falls County farmer Rick Pearson. “It’s because of our climate – warm days and cool nights.”

About the author

Sean Ellis