Hay is at the centre of what is generally regarded as one of the best wool growing merino regions in Australia with some 26 studs found on the Riverine Plains. With the need to diversify agricultural operation to operate sustainably, the sheep meat industry has grown, mainly in response to the depressed wool prices of the last decade.
The beef cattle industry in the Hay area has increased over the years with cattle bred in the area for meat which has led to an increase in the number of feedlots in the Hay Area.
A wide variety of fruit and vegetables are grown, picked and packaged in Hay with lettuce, pumpkins, tomatoes, garlic, corn, rockmelons/watermelons and broccoli among them. This produce is transported to the wholesale markets in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane for a number of major suppliers such as McDonalds, Coles & Woolworths. Hay dominates the Riverina in the production of safflower, lettuce and broccoli.
The Hay area is virtually the "cradle of irrigation" on the Murrumbidgee River. Irrigated crops grown around the Hay area are maize, cotton, wheat, oats, barley, cereal rye, grain sorghum, sunflowers, soya beans, rapeseed, large seeds and legumes. Pasture crops include paspalum/white clover and sub clover/rye grasses are the normal winter pastures.
Over recent time Hay has become a major rice producer with the crop often responsible for a significant portion of the Shire's rural income. Hay has also a large rice receiver depot capable of drying up to 32,000 tonnes of rice at one time.
A number of specialist agricultural enterprises have evolved in the region over the years, including grapes and olive plantations