A mix of market forces will pull alfalfa prices in the northwestern U.S. in two directions during the months ahead, according to a recent Hay Market Snapshot Report from Northwest Farm Credit Services.

Low supplies have raised prices for high-quality alfalfa throughout the region. But hand-to-mouth purchasing by northwestern hay-exporting firms and dairies will limit those increases.

In the feeder hay market, growers can expect strong demand in Idaho and Oregon, states hard-hit by drought. Overall, however, abundant supplies of lower-quality hay will keep prices down heading into the winter.

Most of the region’s hay growers will make money in 2013, according to the report. “Although break-even levels can vary significantly among regions and specific growers, alfalfa prices between $175 and $200/ton will generally result in a solid return.”

One caveat: Producers significantly affected by rain or drought are likely to lose money unless their crops were covered by crop insurance.

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