According to the 2008 Idaho Agricultural Statistics, there are 364 farms in Elmore County producing agricultural commodities. Of these farms, 94% are irrigated and 6% are dryland farms. The irrigated farms have an average size of 478 acres, while the dryland farms average 1378 acres. The total acreage in farmland in 355,590, with an average farm size of 1,181 acres. Based on agricultural data collected by the State of Idaho, the market value of farm products sold by Elmore County farmers was $220,121,000 in 2006. Nearly 20% of Idaho agriculture is exported to foreign markets. Idaho reached a new record in FY2007 of $1.2 billion, up 25% from FY2006.
Elmore County is the biggest potato growing area in Southwest Idaho. In 2007, there were 8,900 acres of potatoes grown in the county with an average yield of 483 hundred weight (cwt.). The total production was 4,300,000 cwt., with some fields averaging 400 to 500 cwt. per acre. About 85% of the potatoes are sold on contract to processors; the remainder is sold on the open market, either as fresh or processed product. All of the potatoes are grown under sprinkler irrigation. Irrigation water is obtained from deep wells or with high lift pumps from the Snake River.
Sugarbeets constitute an important agricultural commodity in Elmore County and ran. In 2008, 8,800 acres were planted and 8,700 harvested to Sugarbeets, with an average yield of 30.9 tons/acre and a total production of 269,000 tons. Production has increased by 40% since 1984 due to improvements in irrigation, fertilizer and pest control practices. Beets from this area are processed at the Amalgamated Sugar Processing Plant in Nampa, Idaho.
Elmore County ranks 3rd in the nation and the highest for hay yield per acre among all the counties in Idaho. In 2007, hay yields in Elmore County averaged 4.93 ton/acre, with 42,500 acres planted to alfalfa hay. The total yield in 2007 was 209,500 tons.
Most of the hay in the county is raised under irrigation. Exceptions occur in the Camas and Smith Prairie areas where dryland farming is practiced. These areas generally yield only one cutting per year, but two cutting may be produced when summer rainfall conditions are favorable.
Since 1984 the University of Idaho, Elmore County Extension Office, had had five (5) applied alfalfa production field trials that gained national and statewide publicity for increasing hay quality and yield.
Beans grown in Elmore County are used for seed of both field (dry-edible) and snap (garden) bean types. The principal dry-bean types grown include varieties of Pinto, Great Northern, Red Mexican (small red), and California Pink. Varieties of kidney and small white pea beans are also produced in limited quantities.
During 2006, Elmore County growers planted 1,000 acres of commercial dry beans. The average yield was 2,300 pounds with a total production of 23,000 cwt. Bean seed grown in Idaho is generally in greater demand that that grown in other states because of its disease free quality.
SMALL CEREAL GRAINS
Wheat and barley are being grown, mainly with sprinkler irrigation, as a cash crop and as the main rotation crop with potatoes. Some oats are grown for grain, but the majority is harvested while still green for hay.
Based on the 2007 county crop statistics for irrigated wheat, 13,300 acres were harvested with an average yield per harvested acre of 88.6 bushels and a total production of 1,179,000 bushels. Spring Wheat totals were slightly lower with 2,700 acres harvested and Winter Wheat coming in at 10,600 acres harvested. The 2007 statistics of barley show 1300 harvested acres, with an average yield of 105.4 bushels per acre and a total production of 137,000 bushels.
As a result of the cereal nursery research conducted by the University of Idaho personnel during the past ten (10) years, farmers are familiarizing themselves with new varieties of wheat and barley that provide greater yields in the local environment.
Corn is not a major cash crop in Elmore County. Corn can only be produced under gravity or center pivot irrigation systems, thereby limiting production locally since the majority of irrigation systems are hand lines or wheel lines. The shortness of the growing season also restricts the growing of corn in some areas of the county. However, the demand for silage corn has increased due to the growing number of dairies in the area.
Based on 2008 crop statistics, 12,800 acres of corn were planted, and of those, 6,400 acres were harvested as grain corn, with total production of 1,090,000 bushels. For silage corn, the corresponding statistics reveal 6,400 acres were harvested, resulting in a total production of 192,000 tons.
In 2007, about 1,500 acres of mint were grown in Elmore County. The mint is processed at a locally owned distillery. Mint has been a good cash crop for the past few years, but requires a great deal of special care with regard to pest control, irrigation, and fertilizer application.
Watermelon and cantaloupe are raised in the eastern and southern portion of the county. The fruit is of excellent quality and is sold locally.
Beef cattle represent a significant share of the county’s agricultural economy. In 2007 the total number of cattle in Elmore County was 135,000. Of this number 21,000 are beef and 99,500 are calves, bulls, steers and heifers. The remaining 14,500 are dairy cows. The average value per head of all cattle is $1240. The total value is $2,628,800.
Elmore County presents an ideal situation for cow-calf operators, as nearly 75% of the land in the county is federally and state owned. Ranchers can graze on federal lands 6 to 8 months out of the year.
There is a major commercial feedlot in the county with a capacity of 150,000 head. At this time, it is operating at an optimal capacity due to optimal economic gains. Japan is becoming one of the major importers from this large beef industry in Elmore County.
Swine are not a major factor in the agricultural economy of Elmore County
Based on the 2008 Livestock Statistics, Idaho is 4th in the nation for milk production. Elmore County has 16,200 dairy animals. Using University of Idaho data, the estimated receipts for the dairy industry in Elmore County would be in excess of $50 million annually. Estimates are that money generated from dairying would turn over from 3 to 5 times in the local economy, making the dairy industry responsible for $150-$250 million of the total economy of the county.
Feed expenses for the dairy industry are estimated at $20.3 million annually. Part of the feed would be produced by local farmers, with the remaining feed being imported. It is estimated that hired labor would be $5 million annually, herd health expenses (i.e. veterinary, drugs, etc.) nearly $1.2 million, and the cost of supplies nearly $2 million. Total annual operating expenses for the dairy industry in Elmore County are estimated to be in excess of $43.5 million.
The sale of Elmore County dairy products is largely outside of the county. As a result of these exports, a large infusion of “new” or “outside” money will be brought into the community that will contribute to the growth of the local economy.
There were approximately 1,500 sheep and lambs in Elmore County in 2006. The average value per head is estimated at $85.80, with a total value of $128,700. The lambs are sold locally at livestock auctions in the Treasure Valley and Magic Valley areas. The average weight of fleece in 2006 was 9.2 lbs. with prices averaging 71 cents per pound.
In the 2000 fiscal year, the timber harvest in Elmore County was 11.48 million board feet. An additional 1 to 2 million board feet was cut for firewood. Over 25%, or 645,352 acres, of the land in Elmore County is forested. The annual contribution to the Elmore County economy from the timber industry is approximately $645,000. Primary species of trees harvested in the county are Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir.