Record year for barley production can’t solve producers woes

This year Idaho barley producers planted and harvested more acres of barley than in 2021.
Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 7:23 PM MDT
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JEROME, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —Idaho’s barley crop this year is one for the record books, but producers are not exactly bringing in record profits, and consumers are also feeling the pinch. Even during a record year, the rising cost of of business is impacting everyone in the Gem State.

This year Idaho barley producers planted and harvested more acres of barley than in 2021. In 2022, 560,000 acres were planned 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 requires less water,” said Brown, “Number two the barley prices are much higher than last year.” He also said barley requires less input cost than other crops, such as less fertilizer.

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

“Which left not much barley in storage for the maltsters and brewers which need the barley for malt,” said Wilder. “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 pricing in 2022 is up 40 to 50 percent from last year, but producers margins are not increasing. They are still feeling the pinch, as the cost of doing business is also up due to inflation and supply chain issues.

“As far as fertilizer goes it is anywhere from 50-100 percent more. Fuel is beyond double what it was last year. Parts and availability have been hard to get,” Brown said.

Wilder said 80 percent of Idaho’s barley goes to malting, and the rest to feed. Sawtooth Brewery co-owner Kevin Jones said their beer prices are up modestly, but it isn’t entirely due to the high cost of barley.

“The cost of aluminum went up 40 percent this year which is the biggest increase I have heard in the industry,” Jones said.

Now with the demand for barley being high and inflation not ending anytime soon, Brown said he is p0lanning to plant more barley in 2023.

“We are already putting in more than last year on our winter feed barley. Then we will see what the spring brings to put more barley in,” Brown said.