Different from 10 to 15 years ago, today I look at scenarios that could shape the next year’s alfalfa hay market: if hay acres and production are down, if milk prices strengthen, if carryover hay stocks are higher, and if hay exports are higher. The first estimate on each of these factors for 2017 will be the December 1, 2016, hay stocks report, which will be released by USDA on January 12, 2017. The first glimpse on hay acres for 2017 will be in USDA’s Prospective Plantings report on March 31. While dairy economists and others have said U.S. milk prices will be higher in 2017, how much higher and how soon? This will be a big factor because profitability in the dairy industry should bring back more normal dairy hay buying patterns, which were altered in 2016. Finally, will exports to China continue the slide that started in September and October or will they rebound? Will alfalfa hay exports to Saudi Arabia surge higher? Stay tuned.