economist Herb Hinman has been analyzing the costs of growing crops
in Washington state for nearly 25 years. His results are published
online and in extension bulletins.
such titles as 2003 Enterprise Budgets for Spring Barley, Spring
Wheat and Winter Wheat Using Direct Seeding Tillage Practices, Lincoln
County, Washington, never make best seller lists, they play a crucial
role in the state's farm economy. Among other things, they help
farmers negotiate loans to buy seed and fertilizer.
you go into banks, you'll see our budgets sitting on desks, because
bankers want to compare our figures with the producers' figures,"
Hinman said. "If they are different, the banker wants to know why."
budgets take into account such components as capital, labor, machinery,
size of enterprise, crop yields, input prices, commodity prices,
and management skills.
budgets, as well as similar ones done by his colleagues around the
country, also play a role in shaping farm policy. "A lot of our
wheat budgets go back to Washington, DC, to furnish data to analyze
how changes in the farm program may affect Washington producers.
especially in WSU's crop and soil sciences department, rely
to help them determine if their research makes cents and as well,
sense. He sums it up simply, "Farmers want to know what
the bottom line is." Rarely does Hinman's work receive
any attention in the media, but two years ago one of his budgets
authored jointly with
Gary Pelter and Erik Sorensen, two area extension faculty in the
Columbia Basin, was hailed in a front page story in the Capital
Press regional farm weekly.
Hinman converses with WSU student
In a story about a new contract negotiated by potato growers and
french fry processors, Dale Lathim, executive director of the
Potato Growers of Washington, said that a WSU study analyzing
the costs of producing potatoes in the Columbia Basin was pivotal
in establishing target prices during negotiations with Simplot
and Lamb-Weston. The agreement provided farmers with a $3 per
ton increase for the 2002 crop, "the best settlement for the state's
potato industry in 20 years," according to Lathim. He went on
to say, "The contract structure translates to an additional $15
million paid to the Columbia Basin grower community this year."
cost studies, often referred to as budgets, are collaborative
efforts involving county extension faculty and growers. "We go
out and meet with a grower committee and sit down to figure out
what it is costing them to produce a crop. It could be apples
in the Yakima Valley or carrots in the Columbia Basin. Last year
we put a lot of effort into updating budgets in Whitman and Lincoln
budgets are done by county. Budgets for irrigated crops may cover
several counties. The effort is never ending. Twenty to 30 crop
budgets are current.
Studies to update the cost of growing onions in the Columbia Basin
and hops in the Yakima Valley are currently underway.