Despite delays due to a wet spring, this season’s outlook is positive for most of the Northwest’s food and agricultural industries, says Spokane-based agricultural lender Northwest Farm Credit Services in its latest report.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that most markets will continue to improve this season and moving into next year, says Karen Witt, Spokane-based vice president of industry and portfolio insights for Northwest Farm Credit.
The cooperative’s report says the combination of a cold winter and wet spring planting season presented a challenge to a number of markets.
The weather caused delays in planting and growing seasons for row crops such as onions, potatoes, and sugar beets, and a slight dip in the quality of certain tree fruits, particularly the Bosc pear crop which suffered from bloom issues.
However, Witt says the cooperative still is expecting modest profitability for most row crops and tree fruits.
“The apple and cherry crops in particular are expected to have good growth timing, which will be helpful for producers,” she says.
The cooperative also reports wet spring weather negatively impacted wheat crops, with delayed planting followed by high temperatures and dry conditions leading to variable quality. Also, continued low prices have left many growers at below breakeven, meaning they haven’t been able to produce enough to cover their expenses.
The report also says nursery and greenhouse markets were affected by the weather, with conditions limiting access to labor and dampening sales growth somewhat.
“We do still expect growth to continue throughout shipping season,” says Witt. “However it does depend on inventory availability, as you can’t sell what you don’t have.”
On a brighter note, the report says cattle producers can expect markets to be slightly more profitable this year, with a late summer influx of slaughter cattle expected to drive prices lower again.
Witt says the cooperative also is excited to see China has opened its beef markets again.
“China had previously had a ban in place due to concerns about mad cow disease in the early 2000s,” she says. “But they’ve recently lifted that ban and global markets for beef look positive headed into next year.”
Meanwhile, the cooperative reports dairy markets also are expected to see improved production now that the weather is warming, and milk prices are increasing.
The report says hay inventories are also doing well, with exports having risen and droughts in Montana tightening supplies and raising prices.
“With the tight supply, we’re expecting Timothy growers to be very profitable this year compared to alfalfa growers,” says Witt. “A good portion of Timothy hay is being exported as well.”
According to the report, one industry that seemed to be positively affected by last season’s cooler, wet weather was the wine and vineyard market.
“While some producers reported freezing and winter damage, it didn’t really affect the industry as a whole,” says Witt. “We were actually pushed toward more normal growing conditions, and we’re still seeing strong sales growth, particularly in the direct-to-consumer segment with vineyards focused on maximizing their profits.”
The report also indicated growth in store for the fishing and forest products industries, with continued demand supporting higher prices.
“People still love seafood, and higher-end species like salmon and halibut are expected to continue to do well,” says Witt. “We’re also still seeing strong growth in the housing and construction markets as well as some international demand for lumber, which is going to keep pushing up prices in those markets.”
Northwest Farm Credit is part of a nationwide group of cooperatives that provides more than $10 billion in financing and other services to farms, ranches, and natural resource businesses in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Alaska.
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