On March 4, a group of barley industry stakeholders gathered in support of one of beer’s key ingredients. Brewers Association (BA) Supply Chain Specialist Chris Swersey, Technical Brewing Projects Manager Chuck Skypeck and Technical Brewing Projects Coordinator Damon Scott attended the National Barley Improvement Committee (NBIC) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The meeting was followed by three days of over 90 visits to congressional offices and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials.
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The NBIC represents the entire U.S. community of barley growers, researchers, maltsters, brewers, distillers and other allied industry members. Barley production and the manufacture and sale of value added barley products, such as malt and beer, have a significant impact on the U.S. economy. Barley is a $1.2 billion per year crop that feeds the $350 billion per year brewing industry.
High Stakes for U.S. Barley
Barley is primarily a public sector, non-genetically modified crop. The use of barley as livestock feed has declined over the last 30 years, primarily due to increased competition from less expensive corn and soybeans. The barley crop has become much more of an industrialized custom contract specialty crop, with very high quality specifications as required by maltster and brewer users. Now 70 percent of the barley grown in the U.S. is used in beer production. Federal investment in barley research is needed to keep barley a viable option for U.S. growers, and to retain U.S. grown barley as an option for U.S. brewers.
The NBIC’s efforts in Washington D.C. were focused on securing appropriated funds that would support projects such as the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative, the Small Grains Genomic Initiative and the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. Working in groups that often included a researcher, a grower, a maltster and a brewer, the voice of the NBIC is amplified by demonstrating a unified barley supply chain.
In Support of a Healthy Supply Chain
Organizations represented during this visit included the Brewers Association, Craft Maltsters Guild, American Malting Barley Association, National Barley Growers Association, North Dakota Barley Council, Idaho Barley Commission, Minnesota Barley Growers, Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, New York Barley Growers and Washington Grain Commission. Researchers in attendance came from Oregon State University, North Dakota State University, University of Idaho, Michigan State University, Montana State University and Ohio State University. Six researchers in attendance currently receive or have received funding for their research from the Brewers Association. Brewers Association sponsored the participation of two representatives of Craft Maltster Guild in NBIC activities, thereby spreading the geographic reach and relevance of the barley crop and malting and brewing business activities into dozens of additional congressional districts and states.
Brewers Association staff participation in NBIC activities plays an important role in voicing the need of small and independent brewers for a viable and healthy supply of malting barley. Remember: no barley, no beer!