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Idaho hop acres increase again

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Idaho hop growers are expected to produce about 400 additional acres in 2014, the result of increased demand for aroma varieties from the craft brewing industry.

WILDER, Idaho — The number of hop acres will increase again in Idaho this year, the result of increasing demand for aroma varieties and firm prices.

Hop acreage in Idaho increased by 39 percent last year, to 3,376 acres, and industry leaders said Gem State growers will produce hundreds more acres in 2014.

“There are a lot of new acres,” said Wilder farmer Mike Gooding, president of the Idaho Hop Commission. “I’d say we’ve got 400 or more new acres going in this year.”

He said increased demand by the craft brewing industry for aroma varieties is driving much of the increase. Good prices are also a significant factor.

According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the average U.S. price for hops rose from $3.18 a pound in 2012 to $3.59 in 2013.

Gooding described current prices as “upwardly mobile in a slow way.”

“The demand is strong and prices are firm,” he said. “It’s definitely a seller’s market for hops.”

While much of last year’s increased hop acreage in Idaho came from replanting idle trellises, “this year, a lot of it is new trellises,” Gooding said.

Roger Keske, a professional soil and crop agronomist from Washington who consults with Idaho hop growers, agreed with Gooding’s estimate of about 400 new acres in the state this year. He also said about 80 percent of the new acres are aroma varieties for craft brewers.

“Idaho seems to be expanding fairly fast, at least percentage-wise,” Keske said.

Hop acreage around the nation increased 13 percent last year, and industry leaders expect it to be up again this year.

Hop Growers of America Administrator Ann George said it’s too early to estimate how many acres will be planted in Washington, which accounts for about 79 percent of U.S. hop production.

But, she said, “I think all the states will have increases this year.”

Idaho hop production increased 39 percent last year, to 5.88 million pounds, and while the state’s expected acreage increase in 2014 isn’t nearly as big as last year, production could be up substantially again because a lot of the new acres in 2013 were first-year “baby” hops.

Baby hops can produce as little as half of what a second-year adult crop can produce, Gooding said. Last year’s baby hops will produce much more in 2014.


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