Don’t expect alfalfa acreage in California to make a strong comeback in 2012, says Norm Beach, vice president of the San Joaquin Valley Hay Growers Association (SJVHGA), in Tracy, CA. Representing growers with 40,000 acres in alfalfa production, SJVHGA is the world’s largest hay marketing cooperative.

Beach recently surveyed his membership about their planting intentions for the coming crop year. “It looks like we’re going to be a little on the light side for acres,” says Beach, adding that, in recent years, numbers from the co-op’s survey have tracked pretty closely with statewide figures. “If anything, we might be down a couple of thousand acres.”

Before the survey, Beach was thinking current high hay prices might lure some acres back into production in 2012. “In the past, that was often the case. You’d see growers jumping from one crop to another, going after the crop with the best price from the year before.

“Now, though, growers have a lot of alternatives to hay that are doing well, everything from orchard crops to vegetables to row crops. There are almost too many good things out there for agriculture.”

If acres do stay level or drop slightly, Beach says 2012 could be another year dominated by low supplies and high prices. “About the only thing that would change it would be a big drop in milk prices. But as long as that milk price stays where it’s at, hay is going to command a high price.”

To contact Beach, call 209-610-9568 or email haynorm@sbcglobal.net.