Hay acreage is down significantly in Washington this year, reports Rod Christensen, executive secretary of the Washington State Hay Growers Association.

“Early USDA estimates put the total hay acreage in the state at 800,000 acres, a decrease of only 10,000 acres from the 2003 figure,” says Christensen. “But grower groups in the Columbia Basin and the northeastern parts of the state are all reporting decreases that indicate a much higher drop in acreage this year.”

USDA also reports a significant acreage reduction in California, and a slight decline in Oregon, he adds.

At the same time, inventory levels are beginning to drop, partly because of increased demand from the suddenly healthy dairy industry.

High corn and wheat prices are the main factor contributing to the hay production cutback in Washington, according to Christensen. Some growers took hay acreage out and planted it to corn or spring wheat. In some areas, water concerns may have affected hay planting decisions, and certainly will impact late-season yields.

The first cutting is starting early this year, and hay quality should be excellent throughout the growing season, says Christensen.

“The only concern is whether or not enough hay can be produced to meet the demand,” he says.