By Nancy Allen
Mercer County's agricultural cash receipts increased more than 13 percent from 2002 to 2003, and the county retained its No. 1 ranking in the state for farm income.
The Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service and Ohio State University Extension recently made the 2003 Ohio Farm Income report available to the public. It is the most recent data available.
Preliminary figures show that Mercer County receipts for 2003 commodities totaled $293,962,000, compared to $259,773,000 in 2002.
Darke County, Mercer County's rival in the past, ranked second in the state in total farm income with $250,504,000, a 12.1 percent increase from their 2002 total of $223,374,000.
Mercer ranked first in receipts for hogs and pigs ($33.5 million) and poultry and other livestock ($155.8 million), while Darke County ranked second with $25 million for hogs and pigs and $128.3 million for poultry and other livestock. Wayne County, the area around Wooster, ranked first in 2003 milk receipts with $77.3 million, while Mercer ranked second with $46.7 million. Wayne County also ranked first in receipts for cattle and calves with $23.2 million
Darke County ranked first in receipts for corn ($26 million) and soybeans ($31.9 million), while Mercer County ranked 22nd and 17th respectively.
Wood County, which includes Bowling Green, ranked first in 2003 revenue for wheat ($13 million) and Lorain County, just west of Cleveland, ranked first for other crops ($57.2 million).
While livestock pushed Mercer County to the top, overall receipts for all crops in the county dropped 6.6 percent from $48.5 million in 2002 to $45.3 million in 2003. Corn, soybeans, oats, hay and wheat all recorded decreases. Corn posted the largest decrease at 23.2 percent.
Christopher Gibbs, executive director of the Mercer County Farm Service Agency, said the large drop in corn receipts was caused by a "long tail" effect of the 2002 drought.
Producers normally chop 15,000 acres of corn for silage yearly, but in 2002 they chopped three times that amount because the corn was stunted and could not be sold for grain. That corn in a normal year would have been held over and sold in 2003, but it never happened, Gibbs said.
"There was a lot of 2002 corn that never made it to sale (in 2003) because it was in the silo for silage," Gibbs said.
But wheat income increased almost 30 percent from $4,260,000 in 2002 to $5,493,000 in 2003. Again, Gibbs said that was due to lingering effects of the 2002 drought. Because of the drought, stunted and damaged corn crops were harvested early for silage, which freed up the fields for planting wheat.
Livestock income continues to make up the bulk of total cash receipts in Mercer County. Receipts for all livestock in 2003 made up 84 percent of the county's cash receipts, the report indicates.
Average receipts per farm in Mercer County increased from $202,947 in 2002 to $231,466 in 2003, figures show. Average receipts per farm in Darke County increased from $125,491 in 2002 to $141,527 in 2003.
Auglaize County, which ranked 12th in the state for farm income, saw an increase in farm receipts per farm from $72,210 in 2002 to $79,173 in 2003.
The report says Ohio farmers earned more income in 2003, and government payments totaled $398.8 million, a 42.9 percent increase over 2002 government payments of $279 million. This represents 7.9 percent of all cash receipts statewide.
Gibbs attributed this increase to the fact that many producers were able to receive more government payments due to the 2002 Farm Bill. The 2002 Farm Bill did not allow producers to begin receiving government payments until calendar year 2003, and then producers, based on the legislation, were able to receive advance government payments for 2004 in calendar year 2003.
The top five commodities statewide in terms of receipts earned were soybeans ($983.9 million), wholesale milk ($584.3 million), greenhouse and nursery ($551.7 million) and poultry and eggs ($536.2 million).
Counties ranking third through 10th after Mercer and Darke counties in total 2003 farm receipts are Wayne, Licking, Putnam, Wood, Holmes, Hardin, Lorain and Fulton.