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E-Malt.com News article: USA: Idaho barley growers to increase barley acreage going against trend
Barley news

Idaho growers anticipate increasing their barley acres, while the other major barley states plan to plant less, Capital Press reported on April 7.

Idaho is poised to further distance itself from North Dakota, Montana and Washington this season as the nation’s top barley production state, a March 31 USDA planting intentions report suggests.

Though Montana growers will plant far more acres, and North Dakota will plant a comparable barley crop, industry leaders say it’s a safe bet Idaho will again emerge as the barley production leader thanks to its strong yields under irrigation. Gem State growers told USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service they intend to plant 660,000 acres of barley this spring, up by 30,000 acres from last season.

Idaho became No. 1 in barley production in 2011, before being supplanted by North Dakota the following year. Idaho reclaimed its top position last season with a crop USDA estimated at 55.8 million bushels.

According to the recent USDA report, growers nationwide intend to plant 3.165 million barley acres, down from 3.48 million acres. North Dakota growers are expected to plant 650,000 barley acres, down by 110,000 acres. Montana growers intend to plant 900,000 barley acres, down 90,000 acres. Growers in Washington, the No. 3 barley production state, are expected to plant 130,000 barley acres, down 65,000 acres from last season.

Growers in Oregon are expected to plant 45,000 acres of barley, down from 63,000 acres, and California growers are expected to plant 95,000 acres, up 5,000 acres.

If realized, the predicted national barley crop would be the third smallest on record. University of Idaho Extension economist Paul Patterson attributes much of the national barley decline to corn economically out-competing feed barley.

Even in North Dakota, where growers raise mostly malt barley, he said the westward movement of corn has competed with barley. Furthermore, diseases such as Fusarium headblight, which uses corn as a host plant, have made barley more risky in humid states.

Idaho Barley Commission Administrator Kelly Olson said it was apparent last fall, when malting companies were aggressively contracting for acres in Idaho and offering competitive prices, that her growers would step up spring planting.

“In North Dakota this year we’re seeing a shift back to wheat acres,” Olson said. “That’s likely due to malt and brew companies reducing their acres in those areas.”

Olson said malt barley is less expensive to raise than wheat, requiring less nitrogen, but involves more risk to growers to meet quality specifications.

“A very significant factor is we’re one of the most — if not the most — reliable malt barley production areas in the North American region. Companies pay for that,” Olson said.

She said the two malting plants in Idaho Falls represent the “single largest malt processing capacity of any one location across the world.”

Idaho Falls grower Marc Thiel usually plants about 100 acres of wheat. This season, barley was the only grain he planted, increasing his barley acreage by about 15 percent.

“Early in the contracting season, it didn’t look like wheat was going to do much, so we went ahead and contracted our barley,” Thiel said, acknowledging wheat prices have improved since then.

09 April, 2014

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