Friday, January 22nd, 2010
By Nancy Allen
Mercer County ranks first in farm income
  Mercer County has again ranked No. 1 among the state's 88 counties for total farm income in 2008, with an increase of almost 21 percent from 2007.
Higher market prices produced increases in almost all categories for the county, according to data in the 2008 Ohio Farm Income report, the most recent available.   
The preliminary data show Mercer County cash receipts for all 2008 commodities totaled $520.1 million, compared to $430.4 million in 2007.
Darke County again ranked second in the state for total 2008 farm income with $449.3 million, a 24.2 percent increase from its 2007 total of $361.6 million. Auglaize County ranked 13th with $147.7 million in total receipts, dropping one spot from 2007.
The biggest income increases in 2008 in individual commodities for Mercer County were in wheat and corn, which rose 64.4 and 62.1 percent respectively. These increases were due to higher market prices and increased production, said Chris Gibbs, executive director of the Mercer County Farm Service Agency.
"For corn especially, 2007 was a better production year in bushels per acre and prices steadily increased in 2008, which is when the bulk of the '07 crop was sold," Gibbs said.
Other sizable increases in 2008 receipts for Mercer County were in total crops (36.5 percent), poultry and other livestock (23.1 percent) and total livestock (16.7 percent)
"The increase in total prices is coming mostly from the grains and now the poultry sector has picked up recently with much better raw egg prices," Gibbs said. "It also would be fair to say Mercer County producers are simply producing more commodities all around, which manifests itself in higher receipts if you're measuring against a previous year."
Mercer County ranked first in income for hogs and pigs ($62.8 million) and first in income from poultry and other livestock ($232 million). Income from livestock made up 75.7 percent of total Mercer County ag receipts in 2008.
Wayne County, the area around Wooster, ranked first in milk income in 2008 with $113.1 million, while Mercer County ranked second with $83.6 million. Wayne County also ranked first in cattle and calves ($24.8 million), and in oats and hay ($5 million).
Darke County ranked first in 2008 income from corn ($81.4 million) and in soybeans ($63.5 million), the report says. Wood County ranked first in wheat income ($23.1 million) and Lorain County ranked first in income from other crops ($29.5 million). The other crops category includes rye, barley, sweet corn, pumpkins, gourds, potatoes, fruits, Christmas trees, nursery sales and oil crops such as rapeseed and sunflower seed.
In 2008, Mercer County saw income increases in 10 of the 11 commodity categories measured - total crops, poultry and other livestock, total livestock, corn, milk, hogs and pigs, soybeans, wheat, oats and hay and other crops. The only commodity in Mercer County that recorded an income decrease was for cattle and calves, which dropped almost 24 percent from $20.3 million in 2007 to $15.4 million in 2008. Between 2006 and 2007 it only decreased 2.3 percent.
The USDA's annual report indicates the income drop for cattle and calves in Mercer County was likely due to lower market prices. Ohio cattle ranchers weathered an 11 percent price drop per head in 2008 after receiving a 10 percent price boost in 2007, the report says.
Gibbs noted that unlike prices for other livestock which went up, prices for milk and hogs have gone down. But income for those two commodities still increased because the county's farmers produced more, he said.
"The sectors that have taken it on the chin are both hog and dairy producers," he said. "In late 2008 and continuing into late 2009 dairy prices were extremely poor and the hog sector has been in a slump for the better part of two years."
And even when the price for certain commodities goes down, Mercer County producers have responded with increasing output, Gibbs said. So even if prices are depressed, if farmers produce more, income can still increase, he added.
Average receipts per farm in Mercer County increased 14.4 percent from $349,972 in 2007 to $400,447 in 2008, the report shows and Auglaize County receipts per farm increased almost 12 percent from $124,660 in 2007 to $139,316 in 2008.
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