Idaho malt barley contracts better than expected
By John O’Connell
Idaho Barley Commission leaders say they’ve been pleasantly surprised by 2014 malt barley contract prices that are relatively strong compared with wheat.
Though malt barley contract prices have been below last year’s levels, new IBC Chairman Pat Purdy, a Blaine County farmer and rancher, said he’s been pleased, nonetheless, to see them hovering slightly above $13 per hundredweight.
“From our point of view, we’re a lot more motivated to plant barley again this year than to try wheat again. I think it’s a very favorable (barley) price,” Purdy said. “I do expect we should see some acres move into barley.”
Barley prices typically run $1.50 to $2 per bushel below wheat. Lately, the gap has narrowed to about 75 cents per bushel, Purdy explained. Malt barley has significant advantages over wheat, requiring less nitrogen to raise and having contracts with an act of God clause, which Purdy explained protects growers who sustain weather-related crop losses from penalization for their inability to supply the full contract amount.
IBC Administrator Kelly Olson anticipates barley acreage will be at least equal to 2013 and could increase slightly.
“Based on where wheat markets were trading, it was pretty surprising to see those initial 2014 malt contracts go as high as they did,” Olson said.
Olson said the better-than-expected barley prices will help growers cope with input costs that continue to escalate, driven largely by increases in power rates for irrigation.
Boundary County grain farmer Tim Dillin, who was chosen as the IBC’s new vice chairman, said the feed barley outlook is also positive, as acreage was up this season in northern Idaho and Washington state, which should give the region marketable quantities to restore a barley export market.
IBC rotates its leadership positions among its three districts. Purdy and Dillin assumed their posts following the commission’s Oct. 16 meeting in Aberdeen.
Purdy, who joined the board in July 2012, raises dairy hay and malt barley on 4,300 acres and manages Picabo Livestock Co. He also is co-owner and manager of Purdy Enterprises, Inc., comprising a Picabo farm and ranch supply store and a Boise commercial pumping system manufacturing operation. Purdy was involved in bringing back the Blaine County chapter of Idaho Grain Producers Association and also serves as chapter president.
Dillin, who was appointed to a three-year term on the commission in 2010, raises about 1,600 acres of soft white winter wheat, canola and barley, mostly for feed. Dillin served on the IGPA board from 2003-2008, including as president in 2007.