BOISE — Idaho’s barley industry has weathered the heavy 2014 losses caused by monsoon-like August rains with the help of its biggest customers and is looking to the future, not the past, Idaho Barley Commission Administrator Kelly Olson told Idaho lawmakers.
Idaho’s barley industry remains healthy, despite the losses, which are estimated at $60 million to $70 million, Olson told members of the House and Senate agricultural committees last week
The monsoonal rains in parts of Southern and Eastern Idaho that are largely deserts started Aug. 4 and didn’t finish for about five weeks, she said.
As a result, harvested barley acreage in Idaho was down 18 percent to 510,00 acres last year and production was down 17 percent to 47.94 million bushels.
But Idaho still led the nation in barley production.
“Despite all the headlines ... we remained on top of the industry in this country for the third straight year,” she said. “Despite those difficulties, Idaho still produced 27 percent of the U.S. barley crop.”
Olson said the industry’s major customers used as much of the damaged crop as possible, given their quality parameters, which helped limit the damage.
Ninety-two percent of the state’s malt barley crop was in the path of those August storms and the industry initially feared as much as 60 to 80 percent of the state’s malt barley crop could be lost.
But a joint IBC/University of Idaho crisis action plan to deal with the damage and the assistance of the state’s major customers helped limit the losses, Olson said.
Beer and malt companies in Idaho have made large capital investments in the state and “they suffered economic losses right along with the producers in 2014,” Olson told the Capital Press later.
“But they have all in various ways really made extraordinary efforts to take as much of the barley as they could and make it work ... to try to limit the losses to the producers,” she said.
IBC member Dwight Little, a barley farmer from Teton, said the malting plants in Idaho “went the extra mile in using as much of the 2014 barley crop as they could.”
“Those folks have made tremendous investments in our area (and) the reason they did that was because we don’t have events like we had last fall,” he said. “They understand that stuff happens some times.”
Little said those companies have come up with decent malt barley contracts for this season compared with other crop prices, “which bodes well for growers and shows us they remain committed to what we do.”
Idaho’s barley industry is in good shape, its customers are standing by the state’s barley producers and they are both looking to the future, Olson said.
“We’re not looking back; we’re looking forward,” she said.
As a result of the losses, income from Idaho’s barley assessment will decline from an estimated $635,000 to $529,000 this fiscal year, and the commission’s reserve fund will likely be drawn down from $509,000 to $358,000.