Home Back Issues February 2010 Overgrown, grass seed farmers switch to wheat

Overgrown, grass seed farmers switch to wheat

| Print |  Email
Articles - February 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wheat2Converting to more profitable crops can be a smart move for farmers in rough economic times, and grass seed farmers are doing just that by growing wheat, making the most significant crop switch in the state.

“Growers are playing with other things, but not on such a significant scale” as switching to wheat, says Brent Searle, a policy analyst at the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

The grass seed industry generates $1.35 billion of economic activity each year and takes ups 55% of the cropland in the Willamette Valley; it hovers between being the third- and fifth-largest crop in Oregon.

But prices began dropping precipitously in the fall of 2008 by as much as 50%. Demand remains low because of housing construction’s slump. “There is a surplus in warehouses right now,” says Roger Beyer, the executive secretary of the Oregon Seed Council.

The council is calling for a 30% reduction in grass seed acreage in 2010, while wheat is being grown at levels not seen in Oregon since the 1970s.

Jerry Marguth, the owner of Nixon Farms in Junction City, grows both grass seed and wheat, and says he has cut his grass seed acreage from 1,500 to 1,100 and increased his acreage for wheat from 400 to 700.

“[During] normal times, grass seed is slightly more profitable than wheat,” he says, adding that he’s not sure anybody in the grass seed industry knows when prices will go back up again.

Geoff Horning, executive director of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon, says switching crops is not economically viable for most farmers because of high up-front costs associated with changing equipment, what the farm’s soil is able to sustain, how much water is needed and a farmer’s learning curve when growing something new. “There are few farming operations changing what they do,” he says.

Wheat prices are not doing much better at $4.10 per bushel after transportation costs, which is $2 per bushel below production costs. That’s a far cry from when wheat sold for $16 per bushel in 2007.

But Tammy Dennee, the executive director of the Oregon Wheat Grower’s League, says cash-flow opportunities with wheat are still better.

“[Grass seed farmers] are sitting on inventory,” says Dennee. “There’s no cash flow opportunity.”

Grass seed is typically grown under a contract, which stipulates when it will be bought. The time of sale and harvest time may differ, and farmers can find themselves storing large quantities of seed for up to a year before selling it.

Wheat producers, on the other hand, can sell immediately after harvest. “There’s a lot of advantages to wheat,” Searle says.

“This is one of the best cash crop options available for growers,” says Dennee.

AMANDA WALDROUPE
 

More Articles

Community colleges and sustainability

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, July 31, 2014
sustainabilityBY MARY SPILDE | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Faced with the aftermath of the “great recession,” increasing concern about the environment and dwindling family wage jobs, we have some very important choices to make about our future.


Read more...

South Waterfront's revenge

News
Thursday, July 24, 2014
MoodyAveBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Remember the naysayers?  Those who called the South Waterfront aerial tram a boondoggle?  Those who rejoiced at the massive sell off of luxury condos at the John Ross and Atwater Place?


Read more...

OB Video: Dress for Success

News
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
DFSOBY JESSICA RIDGWAY | OB WEB EDITOR

Dress for Success Oregon promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools.


Read more...

Portland rises

News
Monday, August 18, 2014

IMG 2551Portland is in the middle of another construction boom, with residential and office projects springing up downtown, in the Pearl and Old Town. OB Web Editor Jessica Ridgway documents the new wave.


Read more...

Blips and trends in the housing market

News
Thursday, June 26, 2014
062614 thumb realestateBY ERIC FRUTS | OB BLOGGER

Last year, the housing market in Oregon—and the U.S. as a whole—was blasting off. The Case-Shiller index of home prices ended the year 13% higher than at the beginning of the year. But, was last year a blip, or a trend?


Read more...

The global challenge

News
Friday, June 27, 2014
062714 thumb globalmarketBY JASON NORRIS | OB BLOGGER

Over the last several months we have seen a wave of cross-border acquisitions, primarily U.S.-based companies looking to purchase non-U.S.-based companies. There are a few reasons for this, but the main culprit is the U.S. corporate tax system. The United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.


Read more...

Trends in business succession

News
Thursday, July 03, 2014
TrendsBY TED AUSTIN & MIKE BAELE | GUEST CONTRIBUTORS

The Office of Economic Analysis announced that Oregon is currently enjoying the strongest job growth since 2006. While this resurgence has been welcome, the lingering effects of the 2008 “Great Recession” continues to affect Oregon businesses, especially with regard to estate planning and business succession.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS