Perhaps in part a response to stronger prices of the last few months, hay growers say they’ll increase acreage this year.

In its March 30 Crop Report, USDA says hay growers expect to harvest 63.8 million acres in 2001, 7% more than in 2000. The figure includes fields planted to alfalfa, alfalfa-grass mixtures and other hay.

Acreage increases are expected in 26 states. The biggest planned gains are in the Great Plains, where 2000 acreage was down due to dry weather. Growers in Texas and Montana, for example, say they’ll boost hay acreage by 1.78 million and 500,000 acres, respectively.

Most Midwestern states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, re-port no expected acreage changes. Minnesota is an exception. Growers there say they’ll harvest 150,000 (7%) more acres this year than last.