Despite the challenges of inflation and elevated fuel prices, Idaho’s barley growers have recovered many of last year’s losses thanks to solid yields.  Laura Wilder, Executive Director of the Idaho Barley Commission, said 2021’s drought conditions led to a 21% year-over-year production decrease.


To completely recover all of last year’s losses, Wilder said growers will need several good harvests.  But she noted the current shortage could strengthen their role in the market.


“Besides the water situation, growers consider the market where they are going to get the best price and the best return for their crop.  Many have contracts with barley with beer and malt companies that are in the state and so all of those factors come into play.  There are more acres that went into barley this year because even though we had more water, it's still a bit of a tight water situation and barley requires less water than other crops such as wheat, corn, potatoes or alfalfa. It's a good choice, knowing that they will likely have enough water to finish the crop.”


Wilder added contract barley prices for Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota could increase by 40% this year.  NASS anticipates this year’s crop in Idaho to be 43% larger than 2021, with 62 million bushels expected.


“Earlier in the year, it looked like we would have another drought situation at the end of February,” Wilder said. “We hadn't had much moisture for several months, but then late rains and snow in April and May really helped the water conditions in Idaho, setting Idaho up for a good barley crop and more acres with higher yields than last year.”


Wilder added even with malt barley making up 75% of beer brewing, cash feed barley prices are lower than expected for farmers.  The Idaho Barley Commission is currently funding studies at the University of Idaho, which are looking into varieties that grow better under cold conditions or under drought conditions.


“We fund multiple studies with the University of Idaho, including funding variety trials that happen all around the state to see how different varieties do in different areas.  They're able to collect data to help growers with the best varieties for those areas. Often, growers are growing specific varieties under contract for various companies, but when they're able to choose their own varieties, we have a lot of good data to help them make those choices.”


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