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Farm receipts surprisingly strong after wild-weather 2010

Hartman Farms, which produces onions and various seed crops near Parma, had a surprisingly strong 2010 despite some wild weather.

“It was a difficult spring to get things started,” principal John Hartman said. “Considering the cool spring and summer, our crops were better than we expected. We were pleasantly surprised.”

Agricultural economists at the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences reported to a legislative committee that Idaho agriculture posted a 12 percent increase in projected cash receipts for 2010, to more than $5.78 billion, helped by gains of 36 percent for milk and 93 percent for onions. Milk receipts grew to $1.95 billion, helped by an average price gain of 27 percent and an average production increase of 7 percent. Onion receipts’ jump to $76 million reflected much higher prices and a 4 percent rise in production.

Hartman Farms’ onion production was similar to that of 2009, Hartman said.

“Many expected it to be down because of the cool year,” he said.

The cool weather helped the onion crop in August, relieving stresses that usually persist as high heat wears on, he said.

Hartman said higher prices for commodity crops spark optimism in the farming community and can help the specialty crops. Fuel and fertilizer prices likely will rise to offset price-related gains, but a good water supply bodes well for farmers, he said.

University of Idaho reported potato sales dropped 12 percent to $690 million as production and prices fell. Sugar beet sales dropped 2 percent to $247 million as a production drop overrode a price gain. Wheat sales rose 6 percent to $542 million. Barley sales dropped 21 percent to $202 million on production and price decreases. Hay receipts dropped 10 percent as production fell but prices increased.

Net farm income grew by a projected 55 percent in 2010, after the 49 percent drop in 2009, UI said. In 2010, a 10 percent gain in total revenue offset a 2 percent gain in expenses.

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