Central Oregon has been known for producing quality hay with our dry hot summers.  Horse owners from all over the west truck it to their ranches because they want the best hay for their horses.  For the last decade or longer, there has been plenty of hay grown here to meet demand, and prices have been pretty low historically.  (It did spike in 08-09 and are currently pretty high.)  However I believe as food prices increase, growing hay will look less and less economically feasible. 

Wheat currently comes to about $900 an acre income, which is about a third more than what hay produces.  Central Oregon used to be potato country, and if potato prices rise along with wheat and corn, we might see more and more potato fields going in.  The main problem with hay is that most stands are pretty old and need worked and replanted.  However this is very costly, and hay just does not make enough to make the numbers work for growers.  I think cash crops such as wheat, potatoes, garlic, etc, are a great way to pay for the initial field work needed to plow the old sod down and get the fields back into healthy condition. 

With all these factors, commercial growers will be forced to look into other crops that pay enough to farm the land.  Either that, or we might see land go unfarmed, which would be a sad thing indeed.  Wither people are aware of it or not, agriculture adds so much character to the area, and lets hope that it will be here to stay. 

The good news for horse owners is that there are lots of acres of hay that is not grown for a profit, but for either the owner’s enjoyment, to keep the irrigation rights, or for some other reason.  This means that there will be hay in the region if the large commercial growers do indeed shift to other crops.