USDA Releases 2021 Hop Planting Report

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On Thursday, June 10, the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS) released their annual report on hop acres planted. The basic report shows hop acreage up 4% in 2021, a record high.

View the full 2021 USDA-NASS Hop Report.

To add some context to the report, I called up Ann George, the Executive Director of Hop Growers of America (HGA). I’m glad I did, since Ann pointed out four pieces of context that are quite helpful in interpreting these numbers:

  1. The first was that the 4% growth number in the report isn’t exactly a fair comparison. Why? Because the number is 2021 planted acres versus 2020 harvested acres, and 2020 was a pretty abnormal year. If we go back to the initial planting report last year, it showed 59,174 acres in the U.S. (or, specifically, in the Pacific Northwest, which is what this report covers). The numbers on Thursday showed 58,641 acres. The difference is that COVID-19 hit immediately after planting, and so some acres ended up being idled. Using the 2019 number lowers growth by a percentage point.
  2. The second is that some of the “new” acres aren’t actually new, but were planted in 2019. So, why weren’t they in the 2019 report? Here’s a perfect example of why you need to understand what statistics really measure and how they are calculated. While most growers in Idaho and Washington do string acres in their first year and try to get a crop, many Oregon growers don’t string their newly planted acres, or report them to the USDA, so Oregon acres have some lag in showing up in the report. We don’t know how many acres that is exactly, but it’s another factor where “growth” isn’t really “growth.”
  3. Ann also pointed out that some of the acres that were “harvested” last year experienced severe damage in late season wind storms that hit Yakima. So, 2019 had additional acres intended for harvest that didn’t actually see any harvest.
  4. Finally, she pointed out that some growth may have been baked into merchant and grower strategy, regardless of demand trends, as both often use a phased approach to bring new varieties to the market.

Overall, Ann stressed that while some might be scratching their heads as to why we saw an acreage increase after a tough year for hoppy beers, the factors above add some context that helps partially explain the increases.

With this context in mind, I’ve spent a little time with the report and wanted to call out the following points:

  • There is still lots of variety shifting going on, with probably about 4,000 acres flipping varieties in addition to new acres.
  • Most of the growth continues to be in aroma varieties, with Citra seeing about 1,000 acres of growth (about half the total) and CTZ and Pahto collectively down about 800 acres.
  • Cashmere, a public aroma/dual-purpose hop, grew almost 300 acres.
  • Centennial continued its long decline, while Cascade actually bounced back a bit.
  • Strata continues to increase in Oregon, moving from 7% to 11% of planted acres in the state.
  • Idaho continues to grow fastest in percentage terms (though Washington was up more in total acres) and is widening its acreage lead over Oregon.

Planting is only the first step in the process and Brewers Association staff will be watching conditions as the crop progresses. It’s too early to say much, but for anyone concerned about Western drought conditions, the areas that supply Yakima have been running very close to historical snowpack averages and hop growers in Oregon rely primarily on well water rather than runoff, so there are no major water concerns at this point in the season.

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