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Abundant agriculture: State of Idaho home to a diverse and abundant agriculture industry

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The Wyoming Livestock Roundup is thrilled to highlight Idaho farms, ranches and agribusinesses in this 2020 Fall Cattlemen’s Edition.

While most people associate Idaho with their famous potatoes, the Gem State’s diverse agriculture industry has a vast variety of agricultural products to offer. In fact, Idaho’s agriculture is as diverse as its landscape, with nearly 25,000 farms and ranches producing more than 185 different commodities. 

In the north, producers grow extensive fields of dryland grains, dry peas, lentils and hay. Down in the southwest corner of the state, traditional crops are mixed with fruit orchards, vegetables and specialized commodities such as mint, hops and seed crops.

The landscape winding along the Snake River gives way to a smattering of irrigated fields of alfalfa hay, dry beans, potatoes, small grains and sugarbeets. Over to the east, one will find a mixture of dryland and irrigated grain, hay and potato fields. 

Cattle and sheep graze vast rangelands throughout the state, and Idaho’s dairy and commercial cattle feeding industries have made tremendous gains through the past decade. 

Agriculture and the economy

Agriculture is a fundamentally important part of Idaho’s economy, communities and way of life. In fact, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), agriculture cash receipts in 2018 equaled $7.4 billion, while processed food and beverage sales totaled $8.4 billion.

 Together, agriculture and food processing generate 28 percent of Idaho’s total economic output in sales and 13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). This number allows Idaho to boast the fifth largest state agricultural economy as a percent of GDP in the nation. 

Market value of agriculture products sold in Idaho in 2017 totaled $19.7 billion. The agriculture sector contributed 123,100 jobs and $9.6 billion in added value. 

The top five agriculture counties by millions of dollars sold are Cassia, Gooding, Twin Falls, Jerome and Canyon.

The top five crops in the state, harvested annually, include 1,380,000 acres of hay and haylage, 1,125,000 acres of wheat, 520,000 acres of barley, 308,000 acres of potatoes and 235,000 acres of corn for silage. 

The production of other major agriculture products on an annual basis include 41 million pounds of trout, 14,627,000 pounds of milk, 958,687 pounds of cheese, 1,600 pounds of wool and 4,180 pounds of honey.

USDA reports the livestock inventory includes 2,490,000 head of cattle and calves, 600,000 head of dairy cows and 230,000 sheep and lambs. 

National rankings

Idaho’s agriculture industry is not only diverse and abundant, it also ranks nationally in several commodities. In fact, Idaho ranks in the top 10 in the nation in 30 of the more than 185 commodities produced in the state. 

Idaho is ranked number one in the nation in potato production, harvesting nearly 14 billion pounds of potatoes yearly and making up more than 29 percent of the total U.S. potato crop. 

Idaho also leads the nation in barley, with 54,080,000 bushels harvested annually and peppermint, with 2,040,000 pounds harvested annually.

Additionally, the state is ranked number one in trout production, raising half of the trout in the U.S. as well as Austrian winter peas, alfalfa hay and several varieties of dry beans. 

Idaho is ranked second in the nation in the production of sugarbeets, hops and all dry peas. Every year, the state harvests nearly 12,870,000,000 pounds of sugarbeets and 17,003,100 pounds of hops. 

The state comes in third in the production of cheese and milk. Annually, Idaho produces 14,627,000 pounds of milk and 958,687 pounds of cheese.

Idaho has a number four ranking for onions, shipping over 580 million pounds across the nation a year. The state is also ranked fourth in spring wheat and lentils. 

Additionally, Idaho is ranked in the top 10 for sheep and lambs, corn silage, winter wheat, canola, wool, all hay, honey and haylage. 

Information in this article was compiled from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and University of Idaho Extension. 

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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