Seth Hoyt

Author of The Hoyt Report, providing hay market analysis and insight.

USDA’s Crop Production Annual Summary for 2017 released on January 12 showed alfalfa hay acres in California at 660,000, down 8 percent from 2016 and the lowest alfalfa hay acres in California since USDA began recording alfalfa hay acres in 1919. There is no other state in the West or in the entire U.S. that has seen such a dramatic drop in alfalfa hay acres in the last 10 to 15 years.

California alfalfa hay acres in 2017 were 440,000 less than the 1.1 million acres in 2006, a 40 percent decline. In contrast, bearing almond acres in California in 2006 were 610,000 and the estimate for 2017 is 1 million, a 64 percent increase, according to USDA.

With higher farming costs, including higher costs and limitations on groundwater usage in California, almonds and pistachios have become an attractive alternative to alfalfa hay in Central and Northern California. Drip irrigation on trees uses less water than alfalfa hay.