Agriculture Program Revenues Up

Children arrive at their newly completed school.

Children arrive at their newly completed school.

The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) saw the revenue for fiscal year 2012 (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012) increase in the Agriculture and Water Program from the previous year. Income increased in all categories that DNR tracks for trust lands in agriculture and grazing production—Dryland, Irrigated, Orchard/Vineyard, and Grazing leases, and Range Permits.

Several factors have contributed to the revenue increase.

  • Lessees are working with the DNR’s Land Managers to implement best management and sustainable land management practices;
  • Commodity prices were generally favorable;
  • Sufficient rainfall in the dryland regions generated higher than normal production per acre;
  • Increased marketing efforts and interest in leases going to Public Auction;
  • Several orchards and vineyards planted in recent years are maturing and producing higher yields.

State trust lands in agricultural production, 2012, by the numbers

Leasing and revenue chart for trust lands in agriculture production for Fiscal Year 2012

Revenue from 85 percent of state trust lands in agriculture and grazing production are Common School trust lands, which help build K-12 public schools statewide.

Pat Ryan
Agriculture Program Manager

Record-breaking Washington apple crop important to state’s economy, trust revenues too!

Boxes of apples from the Monson Lease of  DNR managed state trust lands. DNR Photo: Mark Grassel

Boxes of apples from the Monson Lease of DNR-managed state trust lands. DNR Photo: Mark Grassel

Washington State produces about 60 percent of the apples grown in the United States. Last month, this year’s crop was predicted to be a near-record 110 million boxes. Yet the apple crop continues to grow! The new estimated total is a record-breaking 129.7 million 40-pound boxes. By adding the 18 percent processor volume, this puts the total crop at roughly 150 million boxes. And there is a large percentage of apples that is not even counted, as they went straight from the orchard to processors.Though the state is experiencing its largest apple crop in history, prices continue to stay strong due to the short crops in the Midwest, East Coast, Canada, Mexico and Europe. Unfortunate situations in these areas give the Washington’s industry a healthy outlook on price and movement throughout the year.

Apple orchard on state trustr lands. Photo: DNR
Apple orchard on state trust lands. Photo: DNR

A recent economic study requested by the Washington Apple Commission—The Washington Apple Industry: Contributions to the State Economy and the Important Role of Exports concluded the apple industry contributed more than $7 billion to the state’s economy during the 2010-2011 marketing season. Nearly 60,000 people were employed in production and related industries, generating wages of about $1.95 billion. During the past four years when the US economy has struggled, Washington’s apple industry has been strong. 

Statewide there are more than 165,000 acres of apple orchards. The top five varieties, Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious, account for over 82 percent of this acreage. However, Honeycrisp has been planted on 10,000 acres and with sales at $60 per box, the industry will continue to plant more acres to this variety. On Department of Natural Resources-managed state trust lands, there are about 45 leases with apples growing on more than 6,000 acres. Varieties grown on state land include the top five and others, along with some “club” varieties such as Jazz and Envy—grown and marketed by arrangement.

This past fiscal year July 2011 through June 2012, the orchard and vineyard program on state DNR-managed properties generated nearly $6 million dollars.

At the tree fruit industry annual convention in early December in Yakima, industry leaders presented some of the major challenges. These challenges include having an adequate labor supply, the adoption of mechanization, and being able to more broadly market an increasingly large crop.

Apple blossoms on Monson lease of state trust lands. Photo DNR Mark Grassel

Apple blossoms on Monson lease of state trust lands. Photo:  Mark Grassel

Mark Grassel, Orchard & Vineyard Manager,
Southeast Region

Irrigated Agriculture on State Trust Lands

Rows of potatoes are seen in front of orchard leases on state trust lands.

Rows of potatoes are seen in front of orchard lease, both on state trust lands. Photo: Mark Bohnet

Today, irrigation water rights are very hard to come by, and if you do find water rights available, they are very expensive to acquire. 

But, did you know: The Washington State DNR manages 45,770 acres with water rights that allow us to irrigate state trust lands in orchards, vineyards and row-crops—that help increase long-term revenue to the public schools in the state.  

A state trust lands onion landscape in southeast Washington.

An irrigated ‘onion landscape’ on trust lands in southeast Washington. DNR Photo: Mark Bohnet

How did this come about? 
Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, as the Columbia Basin Irrigation Reclamation Project progressed, DNR’s leaders anticipated the great potential in water’s ability to improve benefits to the people of Washington through irrigation that would increase state trust land income into the future. They applied to the federal government and received ground water and surface water rights. DNR invested in drilling irrigation wells, applied for inclusion in irrigation districts and applied to receive water through river pumping stations.

DNR collaborated with local communities and entered into partnerships with local and area farmers through lease agreements in order to develop (mostly) school trust lands for irrigation.

At that time, non-farmed lands leased for less than 50 cents per acre. In fiscal year 2012 these irrigated lands returned more than $11.5 million in revenue to the trusts, primarily the common school construction trust fund. These lands in agriculture, scattered primarily throughout Eastern Washington, have become an ever-greater treasure to all the people of Washington State.

Mark Bohnet
Snake River District Manager

Crop circle helps make arrid state trust lands more productive.

Crop circle helps make arrid state trust lands more productive.

Washington’s Christmas Trees

A successful hunt for a the perfect tree at one of Washington's Christmas tree farms. Photo: DNR

A successful hunt for a the perfect tree at one of Washington’s Christmas tree farms. Photo: DNR

Here we are at the beginning of a whole new year, and I’m betting that many of you still have your Christmas trees up.  It’s been a tradition in my family to leave our tree up until after New Year’s Day. Growing up in Hawaii, our Christmas trees were shipped to us.  We went down to a tree lot at the mall, chose our tree, and excitedly took it home to decorate.  Ah, the smell of the fresh fir boughs was so enchanting.

Can you imagine how excited I was when I moved to Washington State and was taken to a tree farm, given a saw and sent out to choose and cut the perfect tree for our family!  I think I was more excited than my kids were!  It felt so much more like Christmas.

With that in mind, here are some really cool facts about the Washington State Christmas tree industry.

Did you know:

  • That Washington is the Number 6 Christmas tree producer in the United States.
  • Christmas trees are harvested in 32 of Washington’s 39 Counties.
  • Washington’s Christmas trees are sold in Hawaii, California, and the Pacific Northwest states, and internationally to Mexico, Asia, and in small markets from Belarus to St. Maarten.
  • In addition to Christmas trees, holiday greens used for swags and wreaths —mostly noble fir and western redcedar—are sold around the U.S., as well as Canada and Japan.

This information was excerpted from the State Department of Agriculture’s website.  For more information, or read Facts about Washington’s Christmas tree and holiday greens industries

Deb Whitney
Asset Management and Public Use Division


Research indicates poorer quality wheat when carbon dioxide levels in the air rise

Spring wheat in Eastern Washington. Photo: DNR

Research is finding that rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide negatively affect the protein content of wheat grain.

Elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide stimulate the photosynthesis and growth of most plants. So that seems positive. However, unless plants increase their uptake of nutrients to a corresponding degree, their yields will have a lower nutritional value. Lower nutrient nitrogen results in a lower protein content, and thus poorer nutritional quality.

This is the finding of researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, in a recently published study in the journal Global Change Biology.

 “Protein content is the most important quality aspect for crops, with implications for both nutritional value and the baking properties of the grain,” explains Håkan Pleijel, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Gothenburg’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

Wheat—together with rice—is the world’s most important crop in quantitative terms. Wheat grain also is unusually rich in protein, and wheat is the crop that provides the human race with the most protein.

Read the whole article.