A 25-year low for snow pack and reservoir levels leaves little water for irrigation and hay prices in Washington are already up 10 to 25 percent over last year. The USDA’s Hay, Feed and Seed report lists dairy-quality hay selling for $120 to $130 per ton.
High hay prices are the third problem to surface for West Coast dairy producers. High fuel costs coupled with increased energy cost due to the current energy crisis are giving producers a triple hit in the wallet.
Drought is the biggest factor, as it’s affecting the entire West Coast’s feed supply and demand, says Vernon Larson, USDA market reporter located in Moses Lake, Wash. In addition, cool spring weather has put the hay crop 2 to 3 weeks behind production, that means producers could lose one cutting of hay this year.
Other factors contributing to the region’s hay supply problems include:
- A federal decision to shut off water to 170,000 acres in Oregon’s Klamath Basin.
- The Bonneville Power Administration’s payments to farmers in the Columbia and Snake River basins of $330 per acre not to irrigate. That move takes 90,000 acres out of production.
- A Washington State Department of Agriculture report indicates that about half of the producers in the grain and hay growing Palouse region plan to reduce production this year.