Officials say alfalfa production hindered by rain

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KIMBERLY, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) A quarter of Idaho's landscape is alfalfa farms. It is the third largest alfalfa producing state in the United States.

Traditionally the last few weeks are the best for cutting alfalfa, but farmers who started cutting it for hay may be in trouble.

"Unfortunately the rain that we've had has probably rained on, i'm guessing, half the acres in the Magic Valley that have been cut." said Glenn Shewmaker, a professor and extension forage specialist for the University of Idaho. So it's a significant problem."

Alfalfa that has been cut usually needs to sit for at least four days to dry for hay, but if it rains on the plant during that time it can diminish the quality. It can go down from dairy quality hay, which is roughly $130 per ton, to feeder quality hay, which is around $100 per ton. For the roughly billion dollar alfalfa industry in Idaho, that adds up.

"If you calculate the150 thousand acres then that is about a13 million dollar loss in value," Shewmaker said.

Though Shewmaker says that farmers who cut before the rain were right to do so, some farmers still decided to wait.

"Yeah I'm waiting for some, hopefully waiting for some dryer weather before I cut," said Todd Ballard, an alfalfa farmer in Kimberly.

Ballard also said that sporadic rains aren't surprising.

"This is pretty typical. It's always been touch and go," he said. "It is what it is."

Shewmaker said that the ideal weather for alfalfa hay to dry is sun -- but not necessarily heat -- some wind and of course no rain.

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