Capital Press

The Idaho Barley Commission has elected new officers to serve for this year.

Scott Brown of Soda Springs is the new chairman. He succeeds Wes Hubbard of Bonners Ferry. Rupert-based Mike Wilkins, who joined the commission this summer, replaces Brown as vice chairman.

“The industry is in good shape,” Brown said. “We are always hoping for a better price. But it has been a pretty good year in most barley-growing areas of the state.”

Some regions experienced long periods of above-average summer heat and below-average rainfall, which presented challenges and in some cases reduced yield per acre and diminished malt quality, he said.

Idaho planted about 550,000 acres of barley and will harvest 530,000 with an expected yield of 101 bushels per acre, said commission Administrator Laura Wilder, citing a recent USDA small-grains annual summary. Growers a year ago planted 530,000 acres and harvested 510,000 with a yield of 95 bushels per acre. Results for a solid 2016 were 600,000 acres planted, 580,000 harvested and a yield per acre of 107 bushels.

Harvest results have been in line with what was expected in June, when commissioners set a budget for the fiscal year that started July 1, “so we are on track for the year on the budget,” she said. It included estimated income of $713,840.

Brown said Idaho again this year is the country’s leading producer of malt barley, primarily grown in the south-central and southeast regions, with some in the north. Most of the Idaho crop is malt, but an increasing percentage is going into the developing food-barley market, he said. IBC and the industry have recently prioritized food barley as a market opportunity.

“We are excited about new opportunities including potential for great new food barley markets,” he said.

The commission as of Oct. 2 bases its administrative assistant at the Boise headquarters instead of its former Idaho Falls office, which was close to much of the state’s barley production but did not have much walk-in traffic, Wilder said. There is no difference in overall cost, and basing the position in Boise offers some advantages in efficiency and additional program support, she said.

Idaho’s 4,000-plus barley growers pay a 3-cent-per-bushel checkoff at the first point of sale. It is designed to enhance growers’ profitability through research, market development and promotion, and information and education programs.

On the Barley Commission, Brown is in his second term, which ends June 30, 2020. Hubbard is in his first term, which ends June 30, 2019. Commissioners are allowed two, three-year terms if appointed by the governor. The four-member panel includes three growers and a commission-elected industry representative, Idaho Falls-based Tim Pella of Anheuser-Busch. Pella’s second three-year term ends June 30, 2019.

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