A record year for barley production cannot solve growers’ problems

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JEROME, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Idaho’s barley crop this year is one of the record highs, but producers aren’t exactly making record profits and consumers are feeling the pinch as well. Even in a banner year, the rising cost of doing business is impacting everyone in the Gem State.

This year, barley growers in Idaho planted and harvested more acres of barley than in 2021. In 2022, 560,000 acres were forecast and 540,000 harvested, compared to 530,000 acres planted and 500,000 harvested in 2021. Jerome County farmer Dane Brown said he planted 80 acres of barley. last year, and this year nearly 600 acres.

“This year we planted more barley because, number one, we knew the water situation wasn’t going to be very good this year, so barley is one of those crops that needs less water. ‘ water,” Brown said, “Number two, barley prices are much higher than last year.” He also said barley requires less input costs than other crops, such as less fertilizer.

This year is a record for Idaho barley growers at 111 bushels per acre, said Laura Wilder, executive director of the Idaho Barley Commission. The previous record was 110 set in 2020 in Idaho. Additionally, she said there has been more demand for barley this year. In 2021, the three major barley producing states (Idaho, Montana and North Dakota) were in difficult drought situations. In 2021, barley growers in Idaho produced 89 bushels per acre.

“That didn’t leave a lot of barley in stock for maltsters and brewers who need barley for malt,” Wilder said. “So this year everyone is trying to increase their barley storage so they have enough for their brewing needs for the coming year.”

Additionally, she said barley prices in 2022 are up 40-50% from last year, but producer margins are not increasing. They are still feeling the pinch as the cost of doing business is also rising due to inflation and supply chain issues.

“As far as fertilizers are concerned, it is between 50 and 100% more. Fuel is more than double what it was last year. Parts and availability have been hard to come by,” Brown said.

Wilder said 80% of Idaho’s barley is for malting and the rest for food. Sawtooth Brewery co-owner Kevin Jones said their beer prices rose slightly, but that wasn’t entirely due to the high cost of barley.

“The cost of aluminum is up 40% this year, which is the biggest increase I’ve heard in the industry,” Jones said.

Now that barley demand is high and inflation isn’t ending anytime soon, Brown said he plans to plant more barley in 2023.

“We are already investing more than last year in our winter feed barley. Then we’ll see what spring brings to put in more barley,” Brown said.

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