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Idaho’s precious – and scarce – commodity: hay

Lonni Leavitt-Barker

Only in Idaho can you be at a swanky cocktail party and have the conversation turn to hay prices. Horse owners are nodding their heads in understanding. Because not only have hay prices skyrocketed, hay has become as scarce as my children when it’s time for chores.

Take a few moments and browse Craigslist. If you look under “Hay for Sale,” you’ll see many listings of folks looking to buy hay – and some of them sound downright desperate.

Longtime valley resident Lynda Snodgrass said she’s never seen anything like this.

“If you don’t jump on it right away, it will be gone.” Snodgrass said she’s had hay growers promise her hay and by the time she’s gone over to pick it up, they’ve sold out or sold to someone else for more money.

Many horse owners are complaining, some openly on Craigslist, that farmers shouldn’t be shipping their hay to drought-stricken states like Texas when there seems to be a shortage here.

To complicate matters even more, hunger for hay in China continues to grow and some California-based exporters say it’s much cheaper to ship hay back to China in empty cargo containers than it is to haul it down the highway to local dairy farmers with cows to feed.

All these factors are combining to make the perfect storm – a 62 percent surge in hay prices (according to the USDA), a scarcity of hay for horse and stock owners here in Idaho and other states, and a looming price increase on beef and milk for everyone.

Snodgrass said she has watched as one supplier advertised last month to sell hay at $8 a bale. Four weeks later, that same grower is asking 12 bucks a bale. And she sees it just getting worse. “I bet some will start hoarding hay until people are really desperate this winter. Come February they’ll be asking us to pay double or even triple for it,” said Snodgrass.

If they can just hang on.

Just watch – this time next year so many farmers will see how lucrative growing hay has become, we’ll have a glut of growers jumping on the bandwagon. And I’ll be trying to come up with an article about hay prices being at an all-time low.

About Lonni Leavitt-Barker

One comment

  1. I’m for simply deeding the entire Idaho “Manure Valley” (aka ‘Magic Valley’) to China. The state’s rural bozo-bigshots would then have an inexhaustible supply of what they perpetually crave: cheap, feudal labor that’ll work for nothing and can be pushed around on a whim.

    Think of it: Idaho can fund some Chinese schools for the kids, the way Libs do for European kids in places like San Francisco, Bethesda, Md. Los Angeles, New York, Boston, etc. Is that a bragging point or what? Think I’m kidding? If the state did just one in Twin Falls or such, China would be here with bells on, pronto. Who knows, maybe in a few decades the cows there would not outnumber the humans?

    The Chinese can bring over whole generations of their families and they can all get religiously converted; imagine the prospect for new missionaries back to old country, new business ventures, food companies, variations on what they could with the potato or sugar beet. And those [Idaho-Chinese] knock-off industries, “proudly made in Idaho” would have a whole new meaning in America.

    Hey, I’ve already registered the trademark: “Ida-Chin”.