Kentucky farmers never cease to amaze me.

Despite a slow economic recovery and a late-summer drought, producers across the Commonwealth still were able to post another strong showing in farmgate cash receipts last year.

Kentucky farmers exceeded $4 billion in cash receipts in 2010 for the fifth straight year and the sixth year out of the past seven.

The best could be yet to come during the new year, according to economists from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture who spoke at Kentucky Farm Bureau’s annual statewide meeting in December in Louisville.

UK economists are projecting Kentucky farm cash receipts in 2010 will range between $4.4 and $4.7 billion, compared with $4.26 billion in 2009 and a record $4.71 billion in 2008. Cash receipts in 2011 could exceed $5 billion for the first time ever and may reach as high as $5.2 billion, according to UK, provided there is no adverse weather and the nation’s economy continues to improve.

Kentucky net farm income in 2010, excluding government payments, was $1.3 billion. UK reported that strong exports, aided by a weak U.S. dollar, and a late surge in grain prices drove Kentucky cash receipts in 2010. Poultry was Kentucky’s leading farm commodity for the second year in a row, followed by equine.

Beef cattle receipts were a distant third. For the third year in the past four, drought forced cattle producers across the Commonwealth to start feeding hay earlier than usual, increasing their production costs.