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Northwest Cattle, Dairy Industries Carry Financial Clout But Apples, Spuds Remain Top Crops For Washington, Idaho Farmers

Despite the attention Washington apples and Idaho potatoes garner, the cattle and dairy industries play as big or bigger roles in both state’s farm pictures.

Apples remained the top commodity in Washington for the fifth straight year, according to 1994 data released this week by the Washington Agricultural Statistics Service.

But dairy came in second and cattle fourth in the annual survey of commodities.

In Idaho, the state’s world renowned potatoes actually lag livestock products in total revenue. Idaho ranchers sold nearly $653 million of cattle and calves compared with the $575.5 million of potatoes farmed in 1994.

Dairy products ranked third in total revenue in Idaho.

Since Washington is known primarily for its apples, the state’s thriving cattle and dairy markets often get overlooked, said Steve Hoel, a statistician with the state agriculture department.

“We produce 50 percent of the country’s apples,” Hoel said from Olympia, “but we’re only ranked as the eight-largest milk-producing state and the 30th-largest cattle and calf producing state. It’s easy to get those overlooked when you produce that much of one commodity.”

In Washington, several crops made substantial year-to-year gains in sales. Sales of red raspberries jumped 40.2 percent in 1994 from 1993. Processed green peas rose 52.9 percent as well.

Sales of peaches, though only the 34th-biggest crop in the state, rose a healthy 46.8 percent.

Some Washington crops did far worse in 1994, according to the data. Silage corn dropped 38.3 percent, grapes dropped 35.9 percent and the barley harvest fell by 38.3 percent.

Washington’s 1994 wheat crop value fell 2.3 percent short of 1993’s level. That knocked wheat down a notch from the third-largest commodity to the fourth.

Idaho saw its largest wheat harvest in the past five years, with $339.6 million of wheat produced in 1994, according to its agriculture data.

Some Idaho crops dropped off in value in 1994 as well. Harvests of onions, barley and hay were lower than in 1993.

Idaho’s potato crop grew 3 percent from 1993. The total cash receipts from crops and livestock commodities grew by 2.3 percent, slightly higher than the 2 percent rise in 1993.

In Washington, the growth of the agriculture sector slowed. The total value of all commodities - about $5 billion - increased only $3 million in 1994 from 1993.

The Evergreen State continues to be a top national producer of hops, spearmint, dry peas, apples and other commodities, said Doug Hasslen, state statistician.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Top commodities

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