The agricultural sector in Idaho plays a major role in the state economy, contributing $3 billion – about 5 percent of the total state gross domestic product.
Idaho is ranked first in the nation in the production of potatoes and barley – the state production accounts for more than 30 percent of the national production – and ranks fourth in the nation for milk and milk cow production. Farm productivity continues to advance and exports are increasing, yet farm income has fallen over the past several years. In the face of declining profit margins, low agriculture commodity prices and a farm labor supply shortage, the farmworker demographic is undergoing a change.
Agricultural Labor Worker Types
Source: Idaho Department of Labor
Agricultural labor estimates show a stable and consistent pattern of seasonal farm employment with peaks around October each year. In 2016, average annual employment was 51,240 with a peak employment of 61,100 in October 2016. Continue reading
August and early September were the wettest since 1953 in eastern and southern Idaho, and the heavy rain caused flash floods and other problems in several communities. Agriculture was hit hard.
An economist from the University of Idaho Extension Service estimated damage to crops at over $230 million.
Much of the barley and wheat in eastern Idaho was ruined or damaged by the heavy, sudden rains. Downpours caused sprouting and added moisture to the kernels, making it unsuitable for anything other than livestock feed.
Idaho agriculture has bounced back from the decline it experienced between 2002 and 2007 according to the new 2012 Census of Agriculture. But the composition of Idaho farms is shifting.
While agricultural acreage increased more than 2 percent since 2007 to regain 2002 levels, the number of farms declined since 2007 by about the same percentage, and the commodities being grown have changed.