Monday, April 10, 2017

Schumer Wants Crop Insurance for Malt Barley



Sen. Charles Schumer holds a glass of malt barley used to make beer
New York state could be on the verge of becoming the craft brewing capital of the United States.

But to do that, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said more farmers have to grow malting barley, which is one of the primary ingredients in beer.

“Farmers are eager to grow it if they can get insurance,” Schumer said April 10 during a news conference in the 1886 Malt House in Volney, just outside Fulton in Oswego County. Without insurance, farmers would lose too much money if a freak act of nature ruined their barley crop.

Schumer said he will ask incoming Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to insure malt barley crops throughout New York state. 

Right now, malt barley is insured only in Genesee, Ontario, Otsego and Cortland counties.

No legislature is needed for this to happen, Schumer said. All Perdue has to do is sign an order.

“We have to get this done,” Schumer said.

The federal government insures many crops that farmers produce. 

“If an act of God takes away you product, then the federal government will pay you for your loss,” Schumer said.

Crop insurance doesn’t exist in many counties in New York for malting barley because it is a fairly new crop. Other crops protected by insurance in New York include corn, soybeans, apples, onions, potatoes, green beans, cabbage, grapes, oats, wheat, nursery and greenhouse products, hay, forage, dairy and beef.

Some of the malt barley machines at the 1886 Malt House in Volney, Oswego County
Crop insurance protected $541 million of liability on growing crops in New York in 2015. There were more than 1 million acres insured and more than $42 million was paid to farmers in indemnities for production and/or revenue losses, according to crop insurance statistics.

There are about a dozen malt houses in New York state ready to accept more malting barley from farmers. Malt houses, like the one in Volney at the Sunoco ethanol plant, take the malting barley and expose it to moisture so the seed germinates. Then it produces an enzyme that converts the starches to sugars.

Schumer said it is important for more farmers to grow malting barley because of the 2012 passage of the state’s Farm Brewing Law, which mandates craft brewers to use New York-grown ingredients in their beer.

Right now, brewers must use 20 percent New York hops and 20 percent other New York ingredients in their beers. By 2019, that percentage jumps to 60 percent. And by 2024, no less than 90 percent of all craft beer ingredients must be grown in New York state.

That has led to a large increase in the number of hops acreage grown in the state, and Schumer said the same has to happen with malting barley. But the problem with malting barley is it is difficult to grow in New York.

Malting barley likes dry, cooler weather and the wetness and humidity in New York could cause malting barley planted here to be more susceptible to diseases, especially fusarium blight.

This is why the crop insurance is so important.

“Right now, we are one of the top five craft brewing states in the country,” Schumer said. And he believes with the crop insurance, New York could be heading to number one.

1886 Malt House
Volney, Oswego County
Has contracts with malt barley farmers in Franklin, Genesee, Orleans, Onondaga, Madison, Oneida, Erie, Niagara, Cayuga and Otsego counties
Has 500 acres of malt barley under contract for 2017 and 700 acres under contract for 2017
Will supply more than 2,000 tons of malt barley each year


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