The year 2000 produced the third-largest total hay supplies in the past 20 years — despite bad weather and reduced production.

It was one of those good news-bad news years for commercial hay growers. The good news? An average $18/ton rise in alfalfa prices, from $73/ton in December 1999 to $91 at the same time in 2000.

The bad news is what caused the price rebound after ½ years of decline. Weather-related problems reduced hay production, and increased hay feeding was needed to offset reduced pasture and range production.

Prices increased the most in the South and West, where forage production was substantially reduced. For example, hay production declined 21% in Nebraska. Prices there nearly doubled, averaging $77/ton in December compared to $39 in December 1999.

In Texas, where hay production declined 32%, alfalfa averaged $150/ton last December compared to $129 in December 1999.

December-to-December price increases occurred in 20 of the 27 states where USDA reports monthly alfalfa hay prices. Declines occurred in only six states, primarily in the eastern half of the U.S., where production increased in 2000.

Details of the 2000 hay crop and Dec. 1 hay stocks were part of USDA's January Crop Production report. Total hay production was estimated at 152 million tons, down 5% from the 1999 total. Acreage harvested, at 60 million, was 5% smaller than the previous year's. The average yield — 2.54 tons — was similar to the 1999 yield.

In spite of a 32% decline in production, Texas remained the No. 1 producer, followed by California, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Alfalfa production totaled 80 million tons, down 5% from the 1999 figure. Harvested acreage, at 23 million, was down 4%.

California continued to lead in alfalfa hay production, followed by Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Alfalfa production increased in 24 states — primarily small Eastern states unable to offset Hay Prices Rebound from page 8 substantial declines in leading production states.

Reduced acreage of hay other than alfalfa brought production to 5% less than in '99 — totaling 72 million tons. Acres of non-alfalfa hay harvested totaled 37 million, 6% less than in 1999. Most production declines occurred in the West and South.

Reduced production, coupled with higher-than-normal fall hay feeding, brought Dec. 1 stocks of all hay on all farms down in 23 states, primarily in the West and South.

Colorado, Wyoming and Mississippi had the largest percentage declines in stocks, down 39%, 38% and 37%, respectively, from the December '99 figures. Stocks declined 19% each in Minnesota and Wisconsin because of lower production and adverse harvest weather.

Stocks increased in eastern Corn Belt and northeastern states as 2000 production rose to more-normal levels following the '99 drought. Hay stocks increased 65% in Pennsylvania, 70% in Ohio, and 118% in West Virginia.

Stocks of all hay on farms totaled 104 million tons on Dec. 1, 5% less than on the same date in '99.

Hay usage during fall and early winter, estimated to be 77 million tons, increased about 2% over the year-earlier amount.

Even with 2000's adverse weather and reduced production, all hay production was the sixth largest in the past 20 years. Estimated total hay supplies — annual production plus the May 1 hay stocks — are the third largest in the past 20 years.

If the dry weather that occurred in the South and West continues into the 2001 growing season, hay and forage production will drop sharply, resulting in even further price rises.

For the rest of the winter, hay sellers should seek buyers in deficit areas. Prices will likely increase modestly due to the abundance of grains and oilseeds available for livestock rations.

For details on USDA crop production reports, get on the 'Net (www.usda.gov/nass). Price reports are available at the same location, typically on the last business day of each month.

[For a copy of this map in PDF format, which displays Hay Production Stock changes from 1999 to 2000, click here. Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, free download.]