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Economic Conditions and Trends

Population and Employment

According to the US Census Bureau, Nez Perce County’s population in the year 2000 was 37,410. This includes several incorporated communities: Lewiston, Lapwai, Culdesac, and Peck. Lewiston is the county seat and the largest community with a population of 30,363. Unincorporated communities include Lenore, Cameron, Leland, Southwick, and Sweetwater. In 1996, 83% of the overall county population lived in urban areas with only 17% of the population classified as rural. The county is the eighth most populated in Idaho and the thirty-third largest in area (Idaho Department of Commerce County Profile, 1997).

Located along the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers, Lewiston is the only city in Idaho with a seaport. This location contributes to Lewiston's role as a major employment center in the District. Both the population and labor force in the Lewiston area have grown significantly over the last five years with an annual average growth of 3% (Lewiston Job Service, 2000).

Agricultural production plays a major role in the District. With 383 farms in operation covering a total area of 339,476 acres, agricultural production represents approximately 63% of the land use in the District (1997 Department of Commerce/Agriculture Census Data). Yet based on 1996 Idaho Department of Commerce data it employs only about 2% of the work force. The top five employers in the Lewiston area are ATK Inc, City of Lewiston, Clearwater Paper, Inc, Lewis-Clark State College and the Lewiston Independent School District.

Nez Perce County labor market information indicates that unemployment rates have increased from 5.1 percent in 2000 to 7.2 percent in 2010.

Table 1. Quickfacts from US Census Bureau

Agricultural Economy / Economic Profile

The average market value of agricultural products sold per farm in 1997 for Nez Perce County was $98,580.

Major agricultural crops produced include winter wheat, spring wheat, barley, alfalfa, hay, oats, various dry beans (green peas, black peas, lentils, and garbanzo beans), rape, and bluegrass seed. Beef cattle are also another major agricultural commodity in this area.

Winter wheat is produced on over 90% of the acres/farms in Nez Perce County with a 1999 total bushel produced of 6,590,000. At $2.80 per bushel, the annual revenue for this crop was $18,452,000, down from previous years because of commodity prices.

World affairs (global marketing, exchange policies) and regional weather conditions will continue to have influential roles in the local agricultural economy.

The number of farms in Nez Perce County has decreased 22% from 1987 to 1997. Table 2 provides basic information on farm size and type with the county. Table 3 provides crop production data for the county in acres, number of farms and pounds. Crop production data for Nez Perce County (1999 values) are shown in Table 4 for wheat, barley, alfalfa, and oats.

Table 2. Agricultural Quickfacts from US Census Bureau

Table 3. Crop production information by acres, number of farms and pounds.

Table 4. 1999 Nez Perce County Crop Production Data

Commodity prices influence decisions of agricultural producers to implement conservation practices. Table 5 lists economic considerations for conservation adoption.

Table 5. Economic Conservation Adoption Factors

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