The 650,000 alfalfa hay acres in California for 2018 were the lowest in history since USDA began collecting data in 1919. What will be the future in the coming years for alfalfa in the leading dairy state?

The key to alfalfa hay acres in California depends on the market for almonds and pistachios in the years ahead. There is a direct correlation between the decline in alfalfa hay acres and the dramatic climb in almond acres in the Central and Northern Valleys of California.

Almond acres in California were 605,000 in 2003, and the estimate for 2018 is 1,423,000 acres. Some believe that almond acres will continue to grow until there is enough of a downturn in the market to make it unprofitable to grow them, and break the cycle of growth. Alfalfa acres could be higher in 2019 in the southern desert of California (Imperial Valley and Blythe), but it does not appear that this will be enough to pull acres higher statewide.

Seth Hoyt

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