By Nancy Allen
Mercer County's agricultural cash receipts increased 15 percent from 2003 to 2004 and the county retained its No. 1 ranking for farm income among the state's 88 counties.
The ranking and other county-by-county numbers are available to the public in the 2004 Ohio Farm Income report compiled by the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service and Ohio State University Extension. It is the most recent data available.
Preliminary figures show that Mercer County receipts for all 2004 commodities totaled $347.3 million in 2004 compared to $301.8 million in 2003.
Darke County, Mercer County's rival in the past, ranked second in the state in total farm income with 288.2 million in 2004, a 9.7 percent increase from their 2003 total of $262.8 million.
Mercer ranked first in receipts for poultry and other livestock ($151.3 million) and hogs and pigs ($51.5 million), while Darke County ranked first in corn ($44.3 million) and soybeans ($41.7 million). Wayne County, the area around Wooster, ranked first in milk income in 2004 with $97.6 million, while Mercer ranked second with $60.9 million. Wayne County also ranked first in receipts for cattle and calves with $21.9 million and oats and hay with $4.3 million.
Wood County, which includes the town of Bowling Green, ranked first in 2004 wheat income with $12.4 million, and Lorain County, just west of Cleveland, ranked first in income for other crops with $61 million.
Mercer County saw big increases in 2004 income in all commodities, except for poultry and other livestock and oats and hay.
Though income from poultry and other livestock went down, it still made up 55 percent of the total 2004 Mercer County livestock income.
The biggest increase in total dollar income in Mercer County was for hogs and pigs, receipts for which increased a whopping 53.7 percent from $33.5 million in 2003 to $51.4 million in 2004.
Chris Gibbs, Mercer County Farm Service Agency executive director, said hog income increased due to better market prices and more farmers raising hogs.
"Hog prices, like prices for most of the livestock sector, have been steady and increasing," Gibbs said. "Also in Mercer County there is no secret there continues to be more hogs, although the overwhelming cause is because of solid prices in that sector of the livestock industry."
The biggest increases in income from crops in Mercer County were in corn, which rose 54 percent, from $20.9 million in 2003 to $32.3 million in 2004, and soybeans, which jumped 30.5 percent from $22.8 million in 2003 to almost $30 million in 2004.
Gibbs said more bushels produced and better pricing opportunities resulted in more soybean and corn income for Mercer County farmers between 2003 and 2004.
Livestock income continued to make up the majority of total cash receipts in Mercer County for 2004, accounting for almost 80 percent, the report shows.
Average receipts per farm in Mercer County increased from $237,661 in 2003 to $275,650 in 2004, figures show. Average receipts per farm in Darke County increased from $148,472 in 2003 to $163,776 in 2004.
Auglaize County, which ranked 10th in the state for total farm income, saw an increase in farm receipts per farm from $82,740 in 2003 to $103,699 in 2004.
Counties ranking third through 10th after Mercer and Darke counties in total 2004 farm receipts were Wayne, Putnam, Licking, Holmes, Wood, Hardin, Madison and Auglaize.
The report says Ohio farmers earned more income in 2004 and government payments totaled $332.6 million, 16.8 percent lower than last year's 339.8 million. This represents 5.7 percent of total cash receipts statewide.
Since farmers made more income from the market in 2004 than in 2003, government price support payments didn't kick in, Gibbs said.
"With increasing pricing opportunities, government price supports decreased appropriately (between 2003 and 2004)," he said. "Receipts were up because farmers were receiving their money from the marketplace rather than federal subsidies."
The top five commodities statewide in terms of receipts earned were soybeans ($1.22 billion), corn ($1.02 billion), wholesale milk ($752 million), greenhouse and nursery ($589.1 million) and poultry and eggs ($527.5 million).
To view the complete 2004 Ohio Farm Income report go to http://www.nass.usda.gov/oh/. Click on Ohio Publications then click on Farm Income.