Production on first-cutting alfalfa hay got started in more of the West last week, just in time for a late spring rain to roll in. Growers in western Nevada, western Idaho, and the Columbia Basin were able to cut and bale some hay last week, but production was made difficult as growers dodged rainstorms. Second cutting in parts of the Sacramento Valley was halted as well. A few sales on new crop were reported in the Columbia Basin, but it will be another week before trading is widespread enough to give a good test of the market. In Central California, there was still some softness in the alfalfa market, but it felt more stable than last week. I picked up more trading and a little less talk on dairies trying to push the market lower.
On Thursday, China released the protocols for importing U.S. alfalfa hay and pellets, timothy hay, and almond hulls. The next day, the U.S. Commerce Department announced they would take additional steps to prevent a Chinese tech company, Huawei, from buying U.S. technology. China threatened a strong response, and we will see in the coming weeks what that is. Export contacts expressed concern that this latest dispute could spill over into the trading relationship between the two countries. Just last week, trade representatives met over the phone to reaffirm their commitment to the Phase One trade deal signed back in January. The current exemption from the extra tariff on U.S. alfalfa hay runs through September of this year. Some exporters could be cautious in their buying to protect themselves if the demand from China were to change quickly due to these disputes.