U.S. producers intend to harvest hay on more acreage in 2013 than they did a year ago, USDA’s June Acreage report shows. But it won’t be enough, says Matt Diersen, ag economist with South Dakota State University Extension.

Growers are expected to harvest 56.6 million acres of all hay this year, up by roughly 350,000 acres from those harvested in 2012, according to the report. “It’s still a very low acreage number historically speaking,” says Diersen. “It’s not the kind of increase that’s going to alleviate the general tight supply situation that currently exists.”

On a regional basis, most of the increases will occur in the eastern half of the U.S. “In that part of the country, we’re likely to see more of a return to normal in terms of being able to meet demand, especially from dairies.”

In the western half of the country, reduced acreages and expected subpar yields due to dry growing conditions will likely keep pressure on supplies and prices. Livestock producers in those areas may find it difficult to source supplies, Diersen adds.

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“There will be some surplus production in the Dakotas, but it won’t be quite the same kind of surplus we’ve gotten used to seeing in the last couple of years. We could see a situation develop where growers in places like Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky are shipping hay west later in the year. Typically, we think of hay being shipped in the opposite direction.”

The more encouraging news in the report is that harvested acres of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures nationwide are forecast at 17.7 million acres, a 2% increase over last year’s levels. The biggest jump is expected in Wisconsin, where growers intend to harvest 1.28 million acres in 2013, an increase of nearly 230,000 acres from the year-ago total.

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