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ODA Story of the Week — Oregon agriculture’s roller coaster ride this past decade is reflected in a close look at six years of statistics for each of the state’s top ten commodities. From nursery crops to cherries, the production value of Oregon’s leading crops and livestock has swung high and low, with some trending up, others trending down.Since 2005, Oregon has seen its first and only billion dollar ag commodity, only to watch it lose nearly 40 percent of its value. Some top ten commodities have more than doubled in production value over that stretch while others are half of what they were. As diverse as Oregon agriculture is, there are always winners and losers any given year. The same is true when it comes to the six-year trend.
The leading commodities generally continue to be unchanged. But Oregon’s 2010 value of agricultural production– the total value of crops and livestock sold off the farm– includes a top ten list that has a new name and a rank order that has varied from year to year:
(1) Greenhouse and nursery products, $667 million
(2) Cattle and calves, $493 million
(3) Hay, $473 million
(4) Wheat, $442 million
(5) Milk, $415 million
(6) Grass seed, $256 million
(7) Potatoes, $141 million
(8) Onions, $130 million
(9) Christmas trees, $100 million
(10) Cherries, $77 million
Cherries are a first time member of the top ten and represent one of the brighter stories in Oregon agriculture the past six years. In 2005, production value for cherries was only $36 million and the commodity ranked #13 of all agricultural commodities in the state. Its steady growth hit a high of $83 million in 2009 and last year’s value– down just a bit– is still a 113 percent increase from 2005.
For the first time in many years, pears dropped from the top ten list even though its 2010 value of $76 million is even higher than it was in 2005. The commodity is one of the more stable ones over the six year period despite now being ranked #11.
Greenhouse and nursery production remains Oregon’s top ranked agricultural commodity, but it has suffered a huge drop in value over the past several years. At $667 million, the greenhouse and nursery sector has dropped 36 percent from its high water mark of more than $1 billion in 2007. The US economic recession– particularly the slowdown in the housing market– has had a significant negative impact on sales of nursery products. The decline in production value has been steady and steep in each of the past three years.
Now ranked #2, cattle and calves continues to follow its usual cycle of peaks and valleys. Always a top five commodity, cattle and calves are down from its value of $533 million in 2005, but trending up from the $426 million in 2008. Last year’s increase is 17 percent over the value in 2009.
Hay enjoyed a spike in 2008 when its value reached $613 million, putting it #2 that year. Last year, it sat at $473 million, a figure more in line with the general six year trend. Hay currently ranks #3 in Oregon.
At one time, wheat was king of Oregon agriculture. But when 2005 rolled around, the price per bushel was historically low. Wheat has rebounded from the $180 million production value that year. In 2010, largely due to improved prices and good yields, its value hit $442 million, ranking it at #4. Many Willamette Valley growers last year replaced some of their grass seed fields with wheat.
Milk consistently ranks #5 on the list of Oregon’s top ag commodities. Last year’s value of $415 million is the highest mark in the past six years and a 35 percent increase over 2009.
No top ten commodity has dropped in value the past six years as much as grass seed. Ranked as high as #2 just a few years ago, grass seed has declined nearly 50 percent since 2008, from a high of $510 million that year to just $256 million last year. Like the nursery industry, the recession and the corresponding housing market slump have reduced demand and sales. A surplus of grass seed has also led to a big reduction in acreage planted.
Potatoes have ranked #7 for each of the past six years, saw a spike in 2008, but have generally trended flat– no big jumps, no big drops. Last year’s value of $141 million is a small decrease from 2009.
At #8 last year, onions have experienced a strange, bumpy ride since 2005. Traditionally a top ten commodity, onions dropped off the map in 2007 at just $49 million– ranked at #16– but have since rebounded nicely to $130 million in 2010. Last year‘s production value is a 27 percent increase from 2009.
Finally, Christmas trees remain a top ten commodity even though last year’s value of $100 million is the lowest in the past six years and a 21 percent drop from 2005.
Predicting 2011 production values may be a challenge, but this year’s weather may have more to do with the numbers than any other recent year. Time will tell.
For the latest Oregon agriculture facts and figures, go to http://oregon.gov/ODA/docs/pdf/pubs/ff.pdf
For more information, contact Bruce Pokarney at (503) 986-4559.