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'This Is The Kind Of Hay Year That Makes A Hay Farmer Smile'

Drex Gauntt grows some of the earliest-harvested alfalfa in the Northwest near Burbank, Wash.


Many Northwest alfalfa growers had a rough year with bad weather last summer. Rain can leach nutrients out of drying hay and rot away any profits. 

But this year, hay markets are primed if growers can duck the storm clouds. Drought in California and parts of the Midwest means hay buyers are focusing in on Northwest crops. 

It will be around another 20 days until harvest at Drex Gauntt’s farm. He says if the rain stays away, he could see up to $240 a ton for his hay this year — a 15 percent bump over last year.

"Market conditions and growing conditions and growing conditions are looking really good for 2014. This is the kind of hay year that makes a hay farmer smile," Gauntt said.

High beef and dairy prices are also helping hay farmers as more ranchers can afford premium-quality Northwest hay.

In Washington state, alfalfa is one of the top value crops. Much of the harvest gets exported to the Pacific Rim. 

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.