Warm weather reduced hay usage and prices last fall. But supplies remain tight, and prices are running well above year-ago levels.

On Jan. 11, USDA estimated 2001 hay production at 157 million tons, 3% more than was harvested in 2000. But most of the increase was in hay other than alfalfa. Alfalfa produc-tion, at 80 million tons, was about the same as during the previous year.

Hay production increased in 17 states and declined in 29 states last year. It increased in the Plains and Southeastern regions, and declined across the Corn Belt and in some Western and East Coast states.

Texas, the leading hay-producing state, increased its production by 22%. Most other top hay states, including South Dakota, California, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, showed 2001 production gains. One exception was Minnesota, where produc-tion dropped 9%.

According to USDA, the average price paid for alfalfa hay peaked in October at $108/ton. Then mild fall weather eased pressure on limited hay supplies. By mid-December, the average alfalfa price had dropped to $102/ton. But that was still $12/ton higher than the year-earlier figure and $30/ton above the average price paid at the same time in 1999.