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Quarterly Outlook Mixed For Northwest Ag Crops

AgWest Farm Credit has released its quarterly Market Snapshot reports Oct. 4 covering the state of major agricultural commodities in its northern region of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

AgWest’s 12-month outlook for specific regional agricultural commodities is summarized by crop: The outlook sees apple growers as slightly unprofitable to break even and packers as slightly profitable. Drivers include a large, good-quality 2023 crop in the Northwest, an average 2023 crop size for the U.S., softening prices, increased borrowing costs and the removal of import tariffs in India.

The outlook for cattle suggests profitable returns for cow-calf producers and slightly profitable returns for cattle feeders. Cow-calf producers will enjoy record cattle prices and lower production costs. Even with lingering drought in areas and some grasshopper issues, western producers are optimistic about reaching record cow-calf margins in the next one to two years. Cattle feeders and packers will have to pay higher prices for cattle but will benefit from strong beef demand despite higher retail prices.

The dairy outlook suggests slightly unprofitable returns. Dairies face headwinds from weakening milk prices and elevated feed costs. Dairy income over feed cost margins fell below $4 per cwt in June and July, triggering catastrophic coverage payments.

The outlook for fisheries suggests slightly profitable returns. Drivers include weakening pollock and salmon markets, strong fishing for halibut and sablefish, the potential for a small king crab season in 2023, increased borrowing costs and falling steel prices.

The outlook for hay suggests slightly profitable returns for alfalfa and breakeven returns for Timothy. A large crop and waning exports have weakened hay prices. While prices have likely bottomed out, export and domestic demand has been slow. Ongoing port challenges have been resolved providing relief for hay exporters.

The outlook sees the nursery/ greenhouse industry as profitable. Drivers include strong sales, economic concerns, increasing use of payby- scan contracts among big box stores, rising borrowing costs and the increasing likelihood of some business owners exiting the industry.

The outlook for onions suggests slightly profitable returns. Despite a slow start to the growing season, onion quality has been good across the Northwest. Producers benefited from delayed harvest which helped to keep onion prices profitable for the start of the Northwest’s shipping season.

The outlook for potatoes suggests profitable returns for contracted and uncontracted potatoes. Northwest potato production is expected to recover to historic levels after two years of decline. This will ease the strain on processors who have faced potato shortages but will likely reduce open-market potato prices to breakeven or lower.

The outlook for sugar beets suggests profitable returns. Drivers include good harvest conditions and strong sugar prices due to tightening global inventories. Strong global prices provide tailwinds for favorable U.S. sugar prices and profitable producer payments.

The outlook for small grains and pulse crops suggests slightly profitable returns. Worsening drought across the Northwest hurt soft white winter wheat yields. Despite historically low global production, prices are softening as Russia floods the export market with cheap wheat. Producers will face headwinds from lower prices and below-average yields.

The outlook sees the winery and vineyard industry as slightly profitable. Drivers include lower wine grape demand by Ste. Michelle in

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