Net farm income last year fell sharply in Linn County as well as statewide.
The Associated Press reported that Oregon farm income dropped 41 percent.
A similar statistic for Linn County is not available, but Dan McGrath of the OSU Extension Service said the drop in gross farm sales in Linn County supported the statewide report on net income.
Brent Searle, an analyst for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, called the decline “pretty staggering.” It showed Oregon net income at just under $563 million last year after hitting a record high of $1.3 billion in 2004.
The numbers are based on U.S. Department of Agriculture figures. McGrath did not have net statistics for Linn County, and the USDA report does not break down its totals by county.
“The gross (sales) data we have supports the notion that it was a tough year for the state and Linn County,” he said. He said sectors that are associated with the housing industry, like nurseries and grass seed, were hit hardest.
Gross farm sales for Linn dropped to $238 million in 2009, down 20 percent. Grass seed and legume sales
accounted for $91 million of that total, off more than 42 percent from just two years earlier when gross sales were at $149.1 million.
McGrath said sales are likely to continue to be low if historical trends hold true. He said the agriculture industry is typically the slowest sector to recover from a recession.
Searle told the AP the agricultural economy follows cyclical patterns, so “a downturn isn’t anything new, but the magnitude of last year’s net farm income drop is significant.”
Searle said operating expenses played a very little role in the plunge, which was due mostly to a loss of production value.
“Last year was the first time in many years that the value of production decreased, and it dropped way down in both crops and livestock,” Searle said.
The value of Oregon crop production in 2009 fell to just over $3 billion, a decrease of about 13 percent, while the value of Oregon livestock production was $923 million, a decrease of about 12 percent.
Searle said the decline was spread across many different sectors.
McGrath said he didn’t expect sales to be as bad for grass seed this year thanks to an increased Midwest market for perennial ryegrass. He also said wheat prices are up. That’s good news for Linn County, which has 20,000 more acres in wheat than it did in 2007.