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State with the lowest hay prices: North Dakota

A semi hauls hay southbound Saturday on Highway 22 through north Dickinson. Officials said North Dakota hay prices are the lowest in the country because of a low demand, prompting producers to find buyers in other states.

North Dakota hay prices have increased over the passed year, but, compared to the rest of the country, the state is at the bottom of the stack.

The United States Department of Agriculture revealed that baled hay in North Dakota brought $96 per ton in November. The country average was $176.

"The demand in North Dakota is lower," said John Mueller, USDA North Dakota Field Office agricultural statistician. "If you look at the states that have higher prices, both now and historically, it tends to be the western states."

North Dakota has the lowest prices in the country, Mueller said. New Mexico is at the top with $302 per ton. Mueller said the states with higher prices have larger dairy farms, which has increased demand.

"We don't sit at the top as the top livestock state," he said. "We tend to be higher in the major crops. It just goes back to the demand issue."

Mueller also said drought weather in the southern part of the country could also be driving up prices in Texas, New Mexico and other southern states, causing a larger gap between states in pricing

"Last year New Mexico was at the top with $160. The gap has kind of widened between the lowest state and the highest state."

The USDA North Dakota Field Office surveyed 200 farmers and producers, asking them what the going price of hay was.

The questionnaire asked specifically how much customers would pay for hay in their counties and not outside the state. Though some farmers may sell hay out of state, Mueller said it may not show up in the results.

Farmers around the Hettinger area have put up more than enough hay for themselves, said Chris Schauer, director of the North Dakota Hettinger Research Extension Center. He added that the demand for hay in the southern part of the country is high.

"We have seen a lot of hay be moved down to Texas," Schauer said.

Belfield farmer Ed Cerkoney said the drought in the south has helped boost prices in North Dakota.

"Without that drought down south, we wouldn't have any market for hay," Cerkoney said. "I don't know if you could get $50 a ton without the drought."

Hay being transported out of the state incurs shipping costs, Schauer said. While hay in North Dakota is sold at a good price, there are still trucking expenses.

"A lot of companies are doing back-hauls to Texas," he said. "Depending on the company you are working with, what that producer in Texas is paying for the hay is obviously twice, if not three times, as much as that hay is worth sitting in the field here in Hettinger."

Mueller said North Dakota had the lowest hay prices in the country last year in November at $56. Hay prices have been on the rise since then. October gave hay sellers $62 per ton.

"It seems like hay from across the country, at least from a year ago, has gone up in price quite a bit," he said.

Schauer said there was no reason to doubt that hay prices would continue to slowly rise. Provided that the sheep and cattle market stay strong and inventory high enough, hay prices should continue to climb

"We have a lot of CRP acres being put back into production for farming, so there is less availability for hay," he said. "We could see prices around western North Dakota start to look like prices out west where every year you are expected to pay $100 to $150 a ton for moderate-quality hay."