USDA’s Acreage report on Thursday, June 30, 2016, showed alfalfa hay acres in the seven western states up 9 percent from 2015, while U.S. alfalfa hay acres were up 2 percent over a year ago. But what the report showed and what is really happening are two different stories. Having worked for USDA-NASS, I know that if alfalfa hay is harvested only one time during the season, it is counted as harvested acres.
The reality is that after the first cutting in Washington, older stands of alfalfa hay were taken out of production and those acres were planted to dry beans, buckwheat, and some other crops. In California, a record amount of alfalfa hay was taken out of production in the Imperial Valley after the second and third cuttings and converted to alfalfa seed. In the Palo Verde Valley, alfalfa hay acres were reduced due to a long-term water agreement with Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles. In the Central Valley, alfalfa hay acres are being taken out of production, some being dried up and others converted to other crops as Fair and Good quality alfalfa hay prices are below the cost of production.
The bottom line, there will be less alfalfa hay acres at the end of the season than what there were at the beginning in some western states.