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Idaho unchallenged No. 1 in the West in per capita farm income

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – Despite being the fastest-growing state in the nation, Idaho is still No. 1 among the 11 western states when it comes to farm income on a per capita basis.

Per capita farm income is arrived at by dividing a state’s population by the total amount of farm cash receipts produced in that state. Farm cash receipts refers to the revenue farmers and ranchers receive for selling their commodity.

According to federal data released Sept. 1 and crunched by University of Idaho Extension Educator Brett Wilder, Idaho farmers and ranchers produced $4,392 per Idahoan in farm revenue during 2021.

That made Idaho the top state in per capita farm income among the 11 western states last year, far ahead of No. 2 Montana, which came in at $3,729 in per capita farm income.

“We’re just a big ag state,” said University of Idaho Agricultural Economist Garth Taylor. “The profile of agriculture in the state is still huge.”

Wilder said the per capita farm income data shows that “agriculture remains an incredibly important industry to Idaho.”

California led all U.S. states in total farm cash receipts last year, at $51 billion. But when it came to per capita farm income, California came in at $1,302 per Californian.

What the per capita income data shows is that agriculture is far more important to the average Idahoan than it is to people in other states, even California, the king of ag states, Taylor said.

U.S. Census Bureau data show that Idaho has been the fastest-growing state in the nation over the past decade on a percentage basis.

While Idaho’s population is growing quickly, so is the state’s farming sector, Taylor said.

Earlier this year, he told state legislators that Idaho’s total gross domestic product grew by more than 100 percent from 1997 to 2020. During that same period, Idaho farm GDP grew by more than 200 percent.

“Agriculture is growing faster than the state’s overall economy,” Taylor said. “We’re big and we’re growing.”

When it came to per capita farm income last year, Wyoming ranked No. 3 in the West at $2,962, followed by Colorado ($1,415), New Mexico ($1,413), Washington ($1,315), Oregon and California ($1,302), Utah ($595), Arizona ($545) and Nevada ($240).

California ranked No. 1 in the West in total farm cash receipts ($51.11 billion), followed by Washington ($10.18 billion), Idaho ($8.35 billion), Colorado ($8.22 billion), Oregon ($5.53 billion), Montana ($4.1 billion), Arizona ($3.97 billion), New Mexico ($3 billion), Utah ($1.99 billion), Wyoming ($1.71 billion) and Nevada ($750 million).

When it came to net farm income – the farmer’s paycheck – California was No. 1 at $15 billion, followed by Washington ($3.2 billion), Colorado ($2 billion), Idaho ($1.78 billion), Oregon ($963 million), New Mexico ($839 million), Montana ($836 million), Utah ($549 million), Wyoming ($468 million), Arizona ($420 million) and Nevada ($221 million).

According to the federal data released by USDA Sept. 1, dairy was the No. 1 agricultural sector in Idaho last year in terms of total revenue, with $3.1 billion in farm cash receipts.

Cattle and calves ranked No. 2 with $1.67 billion in farm cash receipts, followed by potatoes ($934 million), wheat ($558 million), hay ($519 million), barley ($256 million) and sugar beets ($243 million).