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Idaho tops in the West in per capita farm revenue

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – Idaho ranked third last year among the 11 Western states for total farm cash receipts. But the Gem State was an unchallenged No. 1 in 2017 when it came to farm cash receipts on a per capita basis.

Idaho farmers and ranchers generated a total of $7.3 billion in farm cash receipts, or revenue for their farm commodity, in 2017, placing the state third in the West, behind California ($50 billion) and Washington ($10.3 billion).

But when it came to farm revenue per person in the state, there was no contest.

Idaho generated $4,287 in farm cash receipts per person in 2017, far more than California ($1,266) and Washington ($1,440).

Montana ($3,300) and Wyoming ($2,418) were the only Western states that even came remotely close to Idaho in farm revenue per person. Some Western states generated comparatively paltry amounts of farm-gate receipts on a per capita basis, including Nevada ($222), Utah ($552) and Arizona ($693).

These 2017 rankings are based on U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service data that became available in late August. They were compiled by University of Idaho Agricultural Economist Ben Eborn, who assembles them annually to show elected officials and other state leaders how important agriculture is to Idaho.

The per capita rankings in particular “illustrate how important agriculture is to Idaho’s economy,” he said. “We depend on agriculture a lot more than everybody else does. Agriculture’s influence on individuals is a lot heavier here than it is in other states.”

California and Washington may generate more total farm cash receipts but the impact that farmers and ranchers have on people within the state is far greater in Idaho, said UI Agricultural Economist Garth Taylor.

“We’re a small state but we have a large agricultural industry in relation to the state’s size,” he said. “Those numbers show how important agriculture is to people in this state.”

In the total farm cash receipts category, Idaho was followed by Colorado ($6.8 billion), Arizona ($4.84 billion), Oregon ($4.76 billion), Montana ($3.5 billion), New Mexico ($3 billion), Utah ($1.7 billion), Wyoming ($1.4 billion) and Nevada ($647 million).

Idaho ranked fourth in the West last year in total net farm income at $1.37 billion. That was down from $1.68 billion in 2016 and the state’s lowest NFI level since 2010 ($1.3 billion).

In terms of net farm income, Idaho trailed California ($17.7 billion), Washington ($3.32 billion) and Arizona ($1.63 billion).

Taylor said Idaho’s 2017 net farm income level was negatively impacted by the state’s dairy industry, which accounts for almost a third of the state’s total cash receipts but is facing tough market prices.

Most of Idaho’s farm cash receipts are generated by the livestock sector – dairy and beef cattle – while California, Washington and Arizona, the Western states that led Idaho in NFI, get most of their farm cash receipts from the crop sector. 

Idaho’s crop sector generated $2.96 billion in revenue last year, up from $2.84 billion in 2016, while the state’s livestock sector generated $4.38 billion, up from $4.27 billion in 2016.

While Idaho’s farm-gate receipt total of $7.3 billion in 2017 was up slightly compared with 2016 ($7.1 billion), so were expenses.

According to USDA data crunched by Eborn, Idaho’s farm expenses, including farm origin, manufactured inputs and other expenses such as marketing, storage, repair and transportation, totaled $4.6 billion last year, up from $ 4 billion in 2016.

After other expenses such as contract labor, government transactions (direct government payments and property taxes and fees), payments to stakeholders and capital consumption were factored in, Idaho’s net farm income totaled $1.37 billion in 2017.

In terms of net farm income in the West, Idaho was followed by Colorado ($900 million), New Mexico ($790 million), Oregon ($640 million), Montana ($370 million), Utah ($310 million), Wyoming ($90 million) and Nevada, which generated a negative amount of net farm income.

When net farm income was calculated on a per capita basis, Idaho again was unchallenged at $800 per person. No other Western state had a per capita NFI above $500.