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How Idaho’s Big 3 ag sectors — and its little wine-grape industry — are faring today

Dairy cows eat feed at Beranna Dairies in Caldwell.
Dairy cows eat feed at Beranna Dairies in Caldwell. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

Milk

Rank among Idaho commodities: 1

2016 cash receipts: $2.33 billion

Percentage change from 2015: -1%

How dairies fared last year: “We expected it to be an awful year because of bad prices. Last year, dairies in the upper Midwest dumped millions of gallons. It didn’t turn out to be that bad for us.” — Garth Taylor, University of Idaho agriculture economist

2017 forecast, from Taylor: “It’s looking OK this year because of the contracts. Chobani [the Greek yogurt maker with a plant in Twin Falls] and other companies started giving contracts to Idaho dairies, and that’s really taken out a lot of the risk in dairy prices.”

Cattle for BI
Cattle on the Little Cattle Co. ranch north of Middleton. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

Beef

Rank among Idaho commodities: 2

2016 cash receipts: $1.74 billion

Percent change from 2015: -11%

How beef fared last year: “We didn’t have the astronomical prices we did the year before, but prices are still very good.” — Garth Taylor, University of Idaho agriculture economist

2017 forecast, from Taylor: “Beef cash receipts and prices will continue to decline. We’re not in the building phase anymore. Ranchers have built back their herds after cutting them back during the drought. We’re in a super-production phase.”

Potatoes
Grower Doug Gross’ Shepody potatoes near Wilder. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

Potatoes

Rank among Idaho commodities: 3

2016 cash receipts: $851 million

Percent change from 2015: -2%

How the potato crop fared: “It wasn’t great. It was just OK. A quarter to a third of Idaho potatoes are not contracted that usually go to the fresh market. That’s where the risk is.” — Garth Taylor, University of Idaho agriculture economist

2017 forecast, from Taylor: “A lot remains up in the air. Usually, potatoes are contracted by now. But the potatoes are planted, and contracts aren’t lining up, which is really a concern among farmers. You can get fabulous prices when you don’t contract, but you also take fabulous risk.”

wine_grapes

Wine grapes

2016 harvest: 2,900 tons

Percent change from 2015: +100%

How wine grapes fared last year: “The 2016 harvest was one of the largest Idaho has ever seen.” –– Moya Shatz Dolsby, executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission

2017 forecast, from Shatz Dolsby: “In Southern Idaho we anticipate decreased tonnage due to the [cold] winter. Thankfully, the vines are still healthy and will be back in action next year. In northern and eastern Idaho, the vineyards expect a normal harvest. The surplus of grapes from last year will hopefully carry Idaho through a lighter year in 2017.”

This story appears in the July 19-August 15, 2017, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on agriculture. Click here for the Statesman’s e-edition, which includes Business Insider (subscription required).

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