Utah farmers are more optimistic this spring than they've been for a decade, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture Edison Stephens said, citing reservoir levels and record high hay and beef prices as just some of the reasons.

"Our reservoirs have plenty of water and, unlike farmers in the Midwest, South and East who depend upon rainfall to water their crops, about 85 percent of Utah's cropland is irrigated."U.S. farmers who suffered from the massive drought last year can only worry that there will be another drought this year, but Utah farmers know they will have enough water to irrigate their fields."

Stephens said last year's drought diminished hay and grain supplies and continued high demand for these commodities has pushed the price of premium quality alfalfa dairy hay to $100 per ton - the highest price in years - and the price may go higher.

Premium hay cubes - small compressed blocks of hay - are bringing up to $120 a ton.

Agriculture economists say most of the hay cut last year in Utah that was for sale has been sold. Whatever hay is still left is being stockpiled in anticipation that prices will keep on rising before this year's first crop of hay is cut from the middle kof May through the first of June.

Grain prices, which have been low for decades, are holding steady and could rise somewhat this year.

The state's cattle business, which represents Utah's biggest agricultural industry, is recording all time high prices, Stephens said.

"Medium and large frame feeder steers - being purchased to feed for slaughter - are bringing $1.07 to $1.12 a pound on the hoof at 200 to 300 pounds and 91 cents to 98 cents a pound at 500 to 600 pounds. Cows sold for slaughter are bringing high prices, too.

"Lamb prices have been a bit unsteady in the past, but seem to be leveling off well now, too."

Probably the worst hurt by the decade-long farm crisis that seems to have ended are Utah's dairymen, Stephens said.

"They still face high production and feed costs and many still are carrying around a lot of debt. But dairymen got a 50 cents per 100 pounds of milk hike in their support prices in January and they got another 50-cent hike April 1.

"They aren't in great shape, but they are better than they were in December."