Oregon's farmers and ranchers grossed $4.3 billion in sales last year, a 3.8 percent rebound from a dismal 2009, according to estimates in an Oregon State University report, which is released annually.

"In general, prices for agricultural commodities in 2010 were higher than the surprisingly low prices in 2009, but sales did not spring back as much as we hoped,” said Larry Burt, the OSU Extension Service economist who compiled the report. It contains preliminary estimates for gross farmgate sales for 2010 and revised numbers for 2009 and 2008.

Gross farmgate sales plunged 15 percent in 2009 over the previous year, marking the biggest percentage drop observed in more than three decades.

Crops, which made up 67 percent of all sales, dipped slightly in 2010. But the mere 0.5 percent decrease to $2.86 billion was more than offset by sales of livestock, dairy products and poultry – which made up the remaining 33 percent – that increased 13.6 percent to $1.42 billion.

Eight of the 12 broad commodity groups in the report showed increases in sales in 2010 compared with the previous year.

The tree fruit and nut sector was up 3.6 percent to $310.1 million in 2010. Winter pears, however, were negatively affected by adverse weather, which reduced yields in some counties, Burt said.

The vegetable and truck crop sector increased to $294.5 million in sales, 2.6 percent higher than in 2009.

Sales of grass and legume seeds fell 16.2 percent to $255.9 million from 2009.

“Sales of grass seed continue to be down and it’s tied to the recession,” said Bill Young, the statewide seed specialist with OSU Extension. “There are fewer new houses and lawns to plant. People are golfing less, and some golf courses that have used Oregon seed are closing or using less seed."

The poultry sector continued to grow. In 2010, sales of chickens, broilers and chicken eggs were $142.7 million, 9.2 percent higher than in 2009.

Sales of small fruits and berries were $108.1 million, up 10 percent from 2009. In 2010, blueberries had a major turnaround, with prices 42 percent higher than in 2009.

Of the 82 individual commodities listed in the report, 35 increased in sales compared with 2009.

Commodity rankings

Cattle ranked No. 1 at $709 million and showed an increase of 12.8 percent because of higher prices.

Dairy products came in second at $473 million with a gain of 17.1 per cent. “Milk was up in 2010 because 2009 was a miserable year, one of the lowest on record for dairy farmers," said Mike Gamroth, Extension dairy specialist.

Coming in third was nursery crops with a 14 percent decrease to $456 million. “The nursery industry continued to suffer from the economic turndown,” Burt said.

Wheat, which was in fourth place, climbed 36.5 percent to $354.1 million in 2010. Some acreage that was formerly planted with grass seed was converted to wheat in the Willamette Valley and contributed to an increase in the sales of wheat, said Mary Corp, a cereals specialist in the OSU Extension office in Umatilla County. A drought in Russia also pushed up prices, she added.

Ranking fifth in sales was alfalfa hay at $175.7 million, down 4.3 percent from 2009.

Sales of blueberries, the No. 1 berry crop in Oregon in the last three years, shot up 72 percent in 2010 to $51.3 million on the turnaround in prices. New markets in India and China helped drive demand, said Wei Yang, agricultural small fruits specialist at OSU's North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora.

Despite a reduction in yields because of bad weather, sweet cherries, the No. 2 commodity in the tree fruit and nut sector, jumped 88 percent to $71 million. That's because the price per ton skyrocketed to $2,054 compared to $846 for the 2009 harvest, Burt said.

Sales of wine grapes declined 17 percent to $65.3 million because adverse weather reduced yields by almost 20 percent in some areas, Burt said. Prices, however, remained steady.

Sales of hazelnuts dipped 4 percent to $34.2 million versus 2009. Yields were lower, but the price increased to a near record of $1.07 per pound, Burt said.

The leading vegetable crop in Oregon, dry storage onions, posted $122.9 million in sales last year, 44 percent above 2009.

Of Oregon's 36 counties, Marion County reported the most sales at $511 million in 2010, up almost one percent from the prior year.

Harvested land statewide totaled 3,142,096 acres in 2010 compared with 2,994,468 acres a year earlier. Of the 2010 total, 1,050,281 acres were hays and forage and 1,020,653 acres were grains.

The report, “2010 Oregon County and State Agricultural Estimates,” is funded by the OSU Extension Service. It is available online at: http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1957/19967/sr790-10.pdf.

The publication and many more estimates, including detailed historical and countywide data from 1976 onward, also are online via the Oregon Agricultural Information Network: http://oain.oregonstate.edu.