Idaho hop output to increase 51 percent

A hop plant grows in a field near Wilder, Idaho, in this August 2014 photo. Hop production in Idaho is forecast to increase 51 percent this year.

WILDER, Idaho — Hop production in Idaho will jump significantly this year as growers continue to benefit from rapidly increasing demand from the craft brewing industry.

Harvested hop acres in Idaho are forecast to total 4,975 this year, up 33 percent from 3,743 acres in 2014, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Yields are forecast at 2,100 pounds per acre, an increase of 13.7 percent compared with last year, and total production is estimated at 10.45 million pounds, up 51 percent compared with 2014’s total of 6.9 million pounds.

Total production in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, the nation’s top hop-producing states, is forecast to be up 13 percent to 80 million pounds.

Production in Washington is forecast to be up 3.8 percent to 58 million pounds and Oregon production is forecast to increase 41 percent to 11.6 million pounds.

The increased Idaho acreage has been driven almost entirely by demand from the craft brewing industry, several growers said.

“For the most part, the craft industry has pretty much driven all of the increase in hop acreage,” said hop grower Brock Obendorf.

Hop grower and Idaho Hop Commission Administrator Mike Gooding said that “virtually all of the new acres planted were aroma varieties for craft use.”

Gooding said Idaho hop acreage will increase again in 2016, though not as much as it did in 2015.

Idaho hop acres have increased rapidly in recent years, from 2,423 in 2012 to 3,376 in 2013 and 3,743 last year.

A lot of Idaho hop acres are still under contracts signed five years ago “at pre-craft boom levels” and current prices “are nothing outstanding,” Gooding said.

But contract prices for recently planted hops are good and “they are fostering significant investment in the hop industry,” he said.

This year’s yield increase is due to two factors, Gooding said. First, a lot of baby hops planted the last few years are now adult hop plants and producing more.

Second, hop growers in Idaho enjoyed near-ideal weather this year.

“This is probably one of the best baby crops Idaho has ever had and even the adult hops look better than normal,” he said. “This is going to be an above-average year for Southern Idaho hop growers.”

Favorable weather in May and June allowed hop plants to establish some good growth and two separate hot spells of 100-degree days happened outside of bloom set in mid-July, Gooding said.

“At the beginning of bloom, temperatures were very conducive to a good set and a lasting set,” he said.

A mild winter allowed growers to get in the field early, which also resulted in good plant growth, said hop grower Oliver Schroeder.

Obendorf said hop harvest in Idaho will begin about Aug. 20, a week earlier than normal, and he expects yields and quality to both be above average.

“As a whole, Idaho’s hop crop this year is above average and one of the better crops I’ve seen,” he said.

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