BILLINGS – Barley is the foundation for a $350 billion beer industry in the United States.
Even though it’s a small crop in terms of acreage, it’s huge in terms of economic impact.
The National Barley Growers Association, whose members include growers, brewers, maltsters and even life science companies, met recently in Washington, D.C., to outline the organization’s key policy priorities.
Buzz Mattelin, a farmer from Culbertson, who is serving as the National Barley Growers Association’s vice president says that like other segments of American agriculture, trade is very important.
“The barley that is exported from the U.S. primarily goes to Mexico but some of it does go to Asia,” said Mattelin.
“So, the new NAFTA is currently a priority of ours which is called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Our position is to replace NAFTA and not withdraw from NAFTA before the new agreement is in place.”
The lifting of the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs is also on their legislative radar.
“The steel and aluminum tariffs are still a problem for both brewers in terms of their aluminum cans and farmers for building things like grain bins and buying machinery,” said Mattelin. “Exempting Canada and Mexico from these tariffs is also one of our priorities.”
U.S. barley acreage has declined to record low levels the last couple of years. This is why funding research facilities that can help keep barley crops healthy from diseases like Scab is a priority.
“In the past, there’s been authorization for $10 million for the wheat and barley scab initiative,” said Mattelin. “In the last farm bill, it was increased to $15 million. Something unique about this initiative is the overheads that can be taken for non-research is limited to 10 percent. That’s a real success for both the wheat and barley industry.”
Barley is the main ingredient for making beer and Montana farmers raise some of the highest quality barley in the world. But for beer lovers, the message is simple: No Barley, No Beer.
-Russell Nemetz reporting for MTN News