Idaho farmers pocketed 50 percent more profits in 2019 than during the prior year, according to a recent University of Idaho economic report.
According to an article published by Post Register, the hefty gain in statewide net farm income was led by strong dairy, potato and sugar beet prices, explained UI Extension economist Ben Eborn, who co-authored the report with UI Extension economist Garth Taylor. Taylor presented the report’s findings to state lawmakers on Jan. 2.
Eborn acknowledges he was surprised by the scope of the increase and rechecked his math several times. The state’s 2019 net farm income — which measures cash receipts minus expenses — reached $2.682 billion, up by 50 percent from the $1.789 billion farmers made in 2018 and more than doubling the $1.309 billion they earned during 2017.
“Idaho is an agricultural state. It’s the largest driver in our economy, and when agriculture does well it benefits other industries throughout the state,” Eborn said. “It’s a ripple effect that kind of goes through the economy.”
Eborn explained farmers and ranchers earn thin profit margins, so a modest increase in gross revenue can result in a significant spike in producers’ net farm income.
The combination of fewer planted potato acres, lower yields and poor 2019 harvest conditions, both in Idaho and nationally, have resulted in a tight spud supply and strong prices. Idaho potato growers will earn an estimated $1.1 billion in revenue for 2019, up 15 percent from the prior year. The state’s production for the year was down 5 percent.
Idaho Falls farmer Marc Thiel — who grows crops including malt barley, potatoes for the fresh market and hay and also raises cattle — said 2019 was a good year and “the potatoes will definitely carry the weight.”
“The (potato) market is great,” Thiel said. “There should be a good base under the market all year.”