News

AMBA featured in Brewers Association webinar; discusses need for public investment in barley

Every year, unique circumstances influence markets, and barley and hops are not immune to economic forces. To maintain a healthy supply chain, many efforts from research and development, federal affairs, consumer surveys, and forecasting collide.

This webinar explored the factors shaping the marketplace so that attendees could gain a better understanding of the activities that support and shed light on the state of the industry. Ashley McFarland, Vice President and Technical Director of the American Malting Barley Association (AMBA), Bryan Thoet from the Hop Research Council (HRC), and Bart Watson, Brewers Association (BA) Chief Economist provided a glimpse at what’s happening with barley and hops in 2022 and beyond. 

To access a recording of the webinar, visit this site: https://www.brewersassociation.org/collab-hour/whats-happening-with-barley-and-hops/. Please note that content is only available to Brewers Association members. 

Barley Pest Initiative receives additional $1 million in annual funding

The National Barley Improvement Committee (NBIC) is excited to confirm that the FY22 federal omnibus spending bill increased the annual appropriation to the Barley Pest Initiative (BPI) by $1 million annually, bringing the total to $2 million. These funds are allocated each year to support researchers at USDA Agricultural Research Service stations and land grant universities across fifteen states. The NBIC is committed and is actively seeking additional funding increases in FY23 appropriations to reach their $5.3 million goal.

Barley pests cause 5 to 15% yield reductions annually, resulting in losses of $36 to $118 million a year nationwide to growers. The BPI strengthens the capacity of the national public sector barley research infrastructure to address 20 major insect, viral, bacterial, and fungal threats to the production of high-quality barley. The Initiative focuses on improved environmental sustainability and economic returns to barley growers, while meeting the needs of domestic and export end-users for high-quality barley. Scientists are working to develop management and genetic resistance strategies to mitigate or eliminate the substantial negative economic impact of major barley pests. This enhances the competitiveness of the barley crop, promoting a robust and high-quality supply of domestic barley for various end-users, thus minimizing industry reliance on global imports. To learn more about the BPI and targeted pests, visit NBIC’s website at: https://ambainc.org/nbic/.

The locations receiving funding through the BPI are (updated annual funding):

USDA-ARS facilities:

  • Aberdeen, Idaho ($213,846)
  • Ames, Iowa ($171,154)
  • Fargo, North Dakota ($291,923)
  • Ft. Detrick, Maryland ($96,154)
  • Lincoln, Nebraska ($55,385)
  • Pullman, Washington ($128,462)
  • Raleigh, North Carolina ($128,462)
  • St. Paul, Minnesota ($291,923)
  • Stillwater, Oklahoma ($213,846)

Universities:

  • Cornell University ($21,538)
  • Montana State University ($43,077)
  • North Dakota State University ($43,077)
  • Ohio State University ($21,538)
  • Oregon State University ($21,538)
  • University of California-Davis ($43,077)
  • University of Idaho ($43,077)
  • University of Minnesota ($85,769)
  • University of Nebraska ($21,538)
  • Virginia Tech ($21,538)
  • Washington State University ($43,077)

USDA prospective plantings report estimates 11% increase in barley acreage in 2022

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released their prospective plantings and grain stocks reports today which highlighted the continued depletion in barley stocks both on and off-farm, but an increase in potential planted acres in the 2022 crop year. 

You can access the barley stock report at the AMBA website: https://ambainc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Stocks_033122.pdf

Barley stocks in all positions on March 1, 2022 totaled 72.6 million bushels, down 40 percent from March 1, 2021. On-farm stocks are estimated at 25.3 million bushels, 55 percent below a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at 47.4 million bushels, are 27 percent below March 2021. The December 2021 – February 2022 indicated disappearance totaled 24.9 million bushels, 12 percent below the same period a year earlier.

You can access the barley prospective plantings report at the AMBA website: https://ambainc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Acreage_033122.pdf

Producers intend to seed 2.94 million acres of barley for the 2022 crop year, up 11 percent from the previous year. In Montana, the largest barley state (by acreage), acreage is expected to increase by 12 percent, from last year. Record low planted acreage is estimated for Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Utah.

You can find additional barley data at the NASS website

McFarland featured in March Pink Boots Society newsletter

The Pink Boots Society, an organization formed to inspire and encourage professionals in the fermented and alcoholic beverage industries to advance their careers through education, recently featured Ashley McFarland, AMBA vice president and technical director, in their March newsletter. McFarland became a Pink Boots member back in October when she started with AMBA and is excited to become more engaged with the society. 

McFarland noted, “I hope to contribute to this network of professionals my knowledge of barley to inspire members to become more curious about the raw grain that is at the heart of many of their products.” The newsletter shares the rather unconventional path that led Ashley from her family’s dairy farm in northeast Iowa to her role now with AMBA while living near Lake Superior in Duluth, MN. McFarland hopes to become more actively engaged with the Wisconsin chapter and push barley related content to the entire society.

To learn more about the Pink Boots Society, visit their website: https://www.pinkbootssociety.org/.

Click here to read the most recent newsletter featuring Ashley.

National Barley Improvement Committee returns from hybrid fly-in; advocating for additional barley research support

The National Barley Improvement Committee, which represents the U.S. barley community of growers, researchers, processors, users, and allied industries, has just wrapped up its annual fly-in after completing 50+ virtual and in-person meetings with key legislators across the country. NBIC’s priority ask sought an increase to the appropriation for the Barley Pest Initiative (BPI). The BPI is an effort to strengthen research capacity to address over 20 insects and diseases that impact barley yield and quality through development of new resistant varieties and management strategies. 

The BPI work began in 2021 across fourteen states with the initial appropriation of $1 million, and will be bolstered by the tentative fiscal year 2022 appropriation increase of an additional $1 million annually. The NBIC seeks additional increases in fiscal year 2023 to reach the $5.3 million needed annually to address these pest challenges with partners at the USDA Agricultural Research Service and network of partnering land grant universities. The full slate of requests made during the fly-in visits can be found on the NBIC’s website: http://ambainc.org/nbic/

Ongoing uncertainty around the pandemic and security concerns in the U.S. Capital required a pivot in approach from the traditional fly-in. The last fully in-person fly-in occurred early-March 2020 right before the pandemic prompted long-term closures throughout the country. In 2021, most legislative work was done via email, but virtual platforms allowed for a more engaging experience in 2022 with 37 virtual visits occurring March 7th and 8th. Many of those visits were with offices that are not yet open to the public, and it also enabled the Committee to engage constituents from the industry for key visits that may have otherwise not traveled to the Capital. 

An easing of pandemic and security related restrictions opened the door for a small contingency of NBIC members to travel to D.C. for fourteen in-person visits March 9th and 10th. “Although things were still pretty quiet in D.C., it felt really good to be back for in-person meetings,” shared Ashley McFarland, Executive Secretary of the NBIC. “Ironically, the NBIC was many of these offices’ last in-person visits before the pandemic really shut things down, and some of those same staffers mentioned we were one of the first in-person visits they were hosting back in their offices. Our willingness to show up with a team that represented the entire barley supply chain truly reinforces our commitment to this industry and how important public sector support is for barley.”

Master Brewers Association of the Americas seek submissions to their upcoming grain and malt focused Technical Quarterly

Call for papers by: Master Brewers Association of the Americas

Barley and malt are the soul of beer, and as we look at barley in the past and in the present, we have to realize that change is inevitable and ongoing. Driven by market forces that prioritized efficacy, the past 100 years has seen an increase in enzyme levels, a significant decrease in malting time, and vastly improved consistency. Today, priorities have diversified to include climate change, genetics, agronomics, alternative grains, and a greater emphasis on flavor. The upcoming Technical Quarterly (TQ) Focus Issue will examine grains and malting to help us understand where we are and where we may want to go.

MBAA is inviting members and authors to publish their original research, reviews, best practices, and essays on needs for the future of grains and malt. Related cereal grains such as wheat and sorghum are all grist for the mill as well.

We invite you to submit proposals, outlines, and/or drafts of your articles to Focus Issue Guest Editors Evan Evans, Glen Fox, and Xiang Yin or to TQ Editor-in-Chief John Palmer. Generally, we are looking for articles that are 2,000–5,000 words, although shorter and longer articles are acceptable with quality content. The article submission deadline is May 15, 2022.

Learn more about this focus issue and its editors.

Can you taste the barley variety in that beer?

by Dr. Pat Hayes, Oregon State University

You are likely already a member of the choir long accustomed to the chorus “barley is the base of beer”. This popular refrain can, of course, be easily expanded to embrace the obvious contributions to flavor and color achieved by the kilning regime used in the final stage of malting. But what about the contributions of barley variety per se to the paler shades of malt? This simple question, building off the intuitively appealing observation that heirloom tomatoes at the farmers’ market in August taste better than supermarket tomatoes in January, turned out to be tougher to answer than it seemed. A fact realized by a gang of barley scientists convened at the (late) Happy Gnome in St. Paul, Minnesota several years ago in their quest to identify a new rallying point for the barley research community. 

In the intervening years, supporters, including the “Flavor Six-Pack” of visionary craft brewers and the Brewers Association, funded collaborative research culminating in a series of papers that identified subtle, but significant, contributions of barley variety to beer flavor. This research, due to the scale of malting and brewing required for beer sensory analysis, was based on the assessment of a limited sampling of barley genotypes. The genes determining flavor contributions were unknown until a research consortium – led by Maria Munoz Amatriain (currently at the University of Leon) with partial support from the American Malting Barley Association (AMBA) and a key partnership with Rahr Malting, began their investigation. The consortium used a tool called quantitative trait locus (QTL) to map the reference barley genome to identify some intriguing candidate genes for malting quality and beer flavor. 

As a result; breeders, growers, maltsters, and brewers take heart and take heed – exciting new varieties and new markets are on the horizon! Grab a flavorful beer and feel free to relax with some al dente pasta, or perhaps a rare steak (or Impossible Meat), and read on at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcs.2022.103430. The paper is open access at the Journal of Cereal Science.  

To learn more about innovative barley flavor research, visit Oregon State University’s Barley World online. This project was funded in part by AMBA’s research program, which is supported and guided by direct contributions from our membership. Learn more about our research here: https://ambainc.org/about/barley-research/

National Barley Improvement Committee sets 2022 legislative priorities

Barley is primarily a public sector crop in the U.S., with most research and development occurring at state universities and USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) facilities. Public sector investment in barley research is so vital due to the crop’s limited acreage, which does not attract private sector investment as other crops do. The National Barley Improvement Committee (NBIC), which represents the U.S. barley community of growers, researchers, processors, users, and allied industries, has been very successful over the years in securing funding at the federal level to ensure barley remains a robust and competitive crop. 

The NBIC has released their legislative priorities for 2022, focusing their efforts on growing investment for the Barley Pest Initiative (BPI), which strengthens research capacity to address over twenty major insect, viral, bacterial, and fungal threats to the production of high-quality barley, which improves returns to growers and meets the needs of domestic and export end-users. The BPI is directed to develop management and genetic resistance strategies to mitigate or eliminate the economic impact of these major barley pests, keeping barley a viable option for U.S. growers, and enhancing value-added job generating enterprises in the U.S. This initiative is a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional collaborative research project of Agricultural Research Service (ARS) intramural (~80%) and extramural university (~20%) programs, involving scientists in fourteen states.

The federal fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget appropriated $1 million at the inception of BPI and an additional $1 – $1.5 million is anticipated in the FY22 budget. The NBIC will be requesting the additional funds needed to bring the effort up to $5.3 million in the FY23 legislative season. These funds will ensure research partnerships with ARS and universities are fully supported to carry out the mission of the initiative. 

Additional legislative priorities that will be addressed by NBIC include sustained support for very successful previous initiatives; including the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative and the Small Grains Genomic Initiative, both of which reached their targeted annual appropriations levels in FY20. Furthermore, NBIC will be calling on Congress to make additional budget increases needed to sustain work throughout the USDA that impacts barley, including the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Economic Research Service, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Finally, NBIC will be seeking passage of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act of 2021 to ensure small businesses, including small and independent breweries, have the support they need to recover from the devastating impacts of the pandemic. 

The NBIC will be sharing these priorities with key congressional members throughout their annual fly-in, occurring both virtually and in-person March 7-10, 2022. To learn more about the Committee and additional details on their legislative priorities, visit the American Malting Barley Association website of whom provides organizational support for NBIC. 

Request for abstracts call open for joint barley conference

The planning committee for the 23rd North American Barley Research Workshop and 43rd Barley Improvement Conference is pleased to announce their request for abstracts. This joint event is scheduled for September 22-24, 2022 at UC-Davis, California. Learn more here: https://brewing.ucdavis.edu/events/23rd-north-american-barley-researchers-workshop-and-43rd-barley-improvement-conference.

The deadline to submit abstracts is April 1, 2022. To submit your abstract, please click on the following link: https://forms.gle/k1H6rMVrXeckkmRA6.

For any inquiries regarding the event, please contact event host, Glen Fox (gpfox@ucdavis.edu). For any inquiries regarding the request for abstracts, please contact Ashley McFarland (ashley@ambainc.org).

Much appreciation from the planning committee for your effort and consideration!

Glen Fox, UC-Davis, host
Harmonie Bettenhausen, Hartwick College Center for Craft Food & Beverage
Pat Hayes, Oregon State University
Peter Watts, Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre
Scott Heisel, American Malting Barley Association
Ashley McFarland, American Malting Barley Association

McFarland sits down with the Master Brewer’s podcast to discuss the future of winter malting barley

Winter malting barley production, once isolated to only a few growing regions in the U.S., has been gaining popularity for a host of reasons. Ashley McFarland, AMBA’s vice president and technical director, recently joined John Bryce, host of the Master Brewer’s podcast, to discuss. They were joined by Zach Gaines (Proximity Malt), Nicholas Santantonio (Virginia Tech) and Trey Hill (Harborview Farms).

The podcast explores the history of winter malting barley cultivation and its benefits to farmers, maltsters, and brewers. Beyond giving growers additional cropping options, it provides a winter cover to protect soil health and water quality. Furthermore, it opens up opportunities for barley in non-traditional growing regions, keeping the grain closer to the user, like never before. Other topics of discussion include the process by which new winter barley emerges onto the scene, including the challenges that barley breeders are still tackling, including winter-hardiness and seed dormancy, to ensure success across the supply chain.

To catch this podcast and others by the Master Brewers, visit: https://www.masterbrewerspodcast.com/238.