U.S. hay growers harvested more tons this year than last, but prices remain well above year-ago levels.

On Nov. 9, USDA forecast 2001 hay production at just over 162 million tons, 10 million tons more than was produced last year. The increase resulted from 7% more acres being harvested. Average yield, at 2.54 tons/acre, was unchanged from the year-ago figure.

USDA estimated that 82 million tons of alfalfa hay were harvested this year. That’s a 2% increase over the 2000 amount and a 2-million-ton gain over USDA’s previous estimate, made in August. Harvested alfalfa acreage totaled 23.8 million, up 3% from the 2000 figure. But the average yield – 3.44 tons/acre – was down slightly.

Total production of other types of hay was a record 81 million tons, up 3% from the August forecast and 12% higher than last year’s amount. Acreage, at an estimated 40 million, was up 9% from the 2000 number.

Thanks to low beginning stocks and other factors, the added production is being absorbed into the marketplace without adversely affecting prices. USDA reports that prices received by farmers for all hay averaged $99.08/ton in May-September, up from $82.08 during the same period last year. The May-September average alfalfa hay price was $106.50/ton, compared with $87.26 in 2000.