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Rain, overseas demand cut local hay supplies

Two years of punishing spring rains and a thriving overseas market havecarved into the hay supply in Southern Oregon.

A parade of storms has repeatedly doused the first cutting of hay inthe Rogue Valley, said David Simpson, owner of Morton Milling Co. in Medford.

We were supposed to have a 12-day window of good weather and theystarted laying down hay on Saturday, he said. Now look at it.

In a normal year, Rogue Valley farmers can squeeze three or four cuttingsof alfalfa hay or two cuttings of grass hay from their fields, Simpson said.

We should have had all of the first cutting off and the secondcutting under way by now, he said. You want to get it off beforeit goes into bloom ­ when the fiber quantity goes up and the qualitygoes down. But if it's raining, you don't have any choice.''

Last year's rainy spring left the valley with a shortage over the winter,he added.

We started the fall with hay at $95 to $100 a ton and it was upto $145 this spring, he said. We were bringing hay from Idahoin May and early June.

With improved compacting technology, more hay is being shipped to Japan,he added.

The alfalfa market, which is mainly what we deal in, is controlledby foreign exports, he said. That didn't used to happen.''