POCATELLO – Prices are rising for Idaho’s top four agricultural commodities – dairy, beef, potatoes and wheat.
That bodes well for the state’s struggling economy and is a reversal from last year, when prices were depressed and the agricultural sector experienced its largest decline in cash receipts in more than 40 years.
Fresh potato growers this year are getting $7 to $8 per hundredweight, about the break-even point and up from $3 per hundredweight last year. A hundredweight is 100 pounds.
“The market really started moving up recently because of increased demand in relation to where supplies are,” Paul Patterson, an economist with the University of Idaho, told the Idaho State Journal. “We really saw a nice push in prices, and it helped set the tone for the next marketing year.”
Milk prices hovered under $12 per hundredweight last year. Now they’re near the break-even point of $15.
“It’s certainly a lot better story than last year,” said Greg Andersen, co-owner of Seagull Bay Dairy near American Falls, which has 600 milking cows.
Idaho Cattle Association President Carl Ellsworth said beef cattle prices have improved 10 to 15 percent from last year.
“We’ve had a nice increase from a year ago,” he said. “Most people should be profitable this year.”
Prices are also rising for wheat, increasing to $7 to $8 per bushel on futures markets. Economists said a ban by Russia on grain exports and a decline in production in Canada are contributing to the rising prices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture adjusted its expected wheat exports up to about 200 million bushels.
“That lit a fire under the market,” Patterson said.
University of Idaho economists calculate that the state’s agriculture generates about $12 billion in sales, directly employs 56,000 people and indirectly provides employment for another 156,500 people.