“They can’t compete with California on ocean freight.”

In one scenario, Hoyt suggested a premium export alfalfa hay price range of $205-215/ton for Washington growers. But this could vary depending on the California market.

In central Arizona, growers have already contracted the first two cuttings of alfalfa hay for $225/ton fob with a “short-haul” to dairies. “I think we’ll see the market in central Arizona a little lower than in the Imperial Valley and Blythe. In the Poston-Parker area, you could see top alfalfa hay bringing in the $230- to $250-fob range, possibly $240-250 early from California buyers until there is “more hay in the pipeline.”

Alfalfa hay acres look to be down in California overall, but up by 10,000 acres between the Imperial Valley and Blythe areas, he said. Alfalfa acres could increase in Arizona, stay the same or increase slightly in Idaho, be unchanged in Utah and Nevada and stay the same or decrease in Washington.

Corn silage acres aren’t likely to take up the slack, Hoyt said. From 2012 to 2013, corn silage acres decreased in California by 10,000 acres. “We’ve lost 50,000 acres of corn silage in the last two years mainly because of the strong corn-for-grain market.” This year, the low water supplies will keep corn silage acres down, he added.

“It’s the same situation in Idaho. They were down 5,000 acres last year, and they’ve fighting drought as well, although they did receive good rains and snow last week.”