POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) - A study by University of Idaho researchers shows ranchers and farmers played a bigger role in propping up the state's economy than the previous year, as 2010 farm cash receipts increased more than $600 million, or 12 percent, compared with 2009.

The university's annual economic analysis projects Idaho's 2010 cash receipts at $5.78 billion. The report also shows farm net income, or the money farmers and ranchers kept, rose 55 percent last year to $1.44 billion, up $400 million from 2009. The positive news is welcomed by producers who had to deal with a 49 percent drop in net farm income in 2009, according to the study.

John Hammel, dean of the university's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, told legislators last week that agricultural products continue to play a big role in the state's overall economy. He cited 2009 figures that showed agricultural business and products accounted for 25 percent of all Idaho exports.

"Idaho agriculture is critical to the state's economy and provides a solid foundation," Hammel told lawmakers in advance of the 2011 Legislature. "It provides stability on an annual basis to (the) economy."

The positive news for 2010 came despite a significant decline in cash receipts for potatoes, typically the state's biggest cash crop. The Idaho State Journal reports the decline in potatoes, as well as dips in hay and barley, were offset by gains in dairy and beef revenue.

Strong milk prices and record production pushed Idaho dairy revenue to an estimated $1.95 billion, up 36 percent from a turbulent 2009.

With dairy production up 7 percent from 2009 and prices averaging 27 percent higher, dairy finished 2010 as the state's top agricultural commodity.

Improvements in the dairy industry last year also help producers rebound from the struggles of 2009, when dairy revenues across the state fell by nearly $700 million thanks to low prices globally for milk.

"Dairy is in a considerable quandary right now," Hammel said. "Prices have rebounded, but they're nowhere near where they need to be."

Cattle and calves brought in $1.11 billion in cash receipts last year, an increase of 16 percent from 2009, helping that sector remain the state's second largest revenue producer. Beef prices averaged 16 percent higher last year.

Revenue for potatoes fell 12 percent to $690 million in 2010. Potato production was down 14 percent as a result of 25,000 fewer acres being planted in the Gem State last year, and prices were down 13 percent compared with 2009.

Wheat, Idaho's No. 2 crop, brought in a record $542 million, which was a 6 percent increase from 2009. Production rose 8 percent but prices were down 3 percent.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.