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.”