State farm production sets record at $9.4B

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SPOKANE — The value of the state's farm production reached a record $9.4 billion last year, led by record high sales of apples, milk and wheat, the National Agricultural Statistics Service said Thursday.

Production climbed 14 percent from 2010 and was 13 percent higher than the previous record of $8.35 billion set in 2007.

Six of the top seven Washington crops -- apples, milk, wheat, potatoes, hay, and cherries -- reached record high values in 2011.

"Agriculture remains a bright spot in our economy with stable employment and growing exports to the Pacific Rim," said Dan Newhouse, director of the state Department of Agriculture.

Despite rising costs and worker shortages, Newhouse said he remained optimistic about the future.

Apples remain the top farm crop in the state, with a 2011 value of $1.83 billion, up 19 percent from 2010. Apples, the state's signature farm product, made up 20 percent of total agricultural value.

Milk ranked second with a value of $1.28 billion, up 34 percent from the year before, while wheat was third with a value of $1.14 billion, up 23 percent from the year before.

Blueberries were the most valuable crop per acre in 2011, coming in at $17,429 per acre. Sweet cherries produced $15,500 per acre.

Of the $9.4 billion in value, $231 million came from government payments to farmers.