Record farm production in 2012 in Washington

OLYMPIA — Washington farmers and ranchers set a production record last year, growing crops and raising livestock worth $9.89 billion — a 6 percent increase from 2011, according to a report last week from the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Apple production climbed 16 percent to $2.25 billion. It’s the first commodity in the state to pass the $2 billion mark, said Washington State Department of Agriculture Director Bud Hover.

Apples are the top commodity in the state, representing 23 percent of the total agriculture value.

Washington is the nation’s top apple producer, growing about 60 percent of the U.S. crop. Washington also leads the nation in sweet cherries, pears, red raspberries and hops.

Harvested apple orchards were worth $15,400 per acre in 2012, the report said.

After apples’ $2.25 billion, the other crops in the top five were wheat, worth $1.18 billion; milk, worth $1.16 billion; potatoes, worth $700 million; and hay, worth $679 million.

There are 39,500 farms and ranches in Washington, according to the 2007 USDA census. They employ 160,000 owners, farm workers and associated jobs, including 40,000 in processing.

“We also set record employment and sales figures in the food processing industry,” Hover said in a statement on the October report from the Statistics Service, a U.S. Department of Agriculture agency.

The value of food processing was up about 3 percent, to $15.46 billion, said state Agriculture Department spokesman Mike Louisell.

Washington leads the nation in potatoes grown for processed foods, such as french fries, Louisell said. The Evergreen State also is the leading U.S. producer of apple juice and the second-largest producer of premium wines. It has more than 750 wineries.

The Statistics Service report ranking 40 commodities also showed significant gains for cattle and calves, grapes, pears, dry edible beans, barley, canola, and onions.

While apples shined, the totals for milk, potatoes and hay all declined. Production of blueberries fell 30 percent from their 2011 record.

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