Agriculture, Business, Central New York, Politics

Federal Funds for Beer

By Cole Zimmerman FULTON, N.Y (NCC News)– The craft beer scene in central New York is big – but according to 1886 Malt House’s marketing and logistics manager Erin Tones, it’s not even at it’s full potential yet.

“It’s big and growing bigger every day, or at least every week,” said Tones.  “My understanding is that there’s well over 300 craft breweries now in New York state.”

There’s one problem with this growing industry however; farmers don’t want to grow the key crop that is used to create craft beers.  The crop is barley, which is susceptible to the harsh weather in central New York.  Barley goes through a malting process before being made into beer.  1886 Malt House will be responsible for malting barley when it opens this summer, providing local breweries with over 2,000 pounds of barley a year.

“We’ve been out for about 18 months working with New York farmers who have previously grown barley in the past, and we have also found some farmers as well who have not grown barley and we’ve been working with them to educate on agronomic practices and make sure we spread the word on this crop,” said Tones.  “We have gotten about 1200 bushels under contract so far.”

How can the state of New York feed its craft beer frenzy with less demand among farmers to grow the crop?  Senator Chuck Schumer thinks he has the answer.

Sen. Schumer is proposing that federal insurance funds be given to farmers to grow the crop.  Tones thinks that the proposal would be beneficial to the area’s craft beer craze.

“I think it will make a difference predominately because more farmers will grow it if insurance is available.  I think there is a large contingent of growers that don’t want to grow a crop that is so challenging to grow without some sort of mitigation for their risk,” said Tones.

In order to provide this insurance, Sen. Schumer doesn’t even need a law.  All he needs is the secretary of agriculture to sign an order approving it.

If the order is signed, there will be more opportunity for barley to enter through the doors of 1886 Malt House, where they will then malt the grain. The Malt House will then sell the malted grain at a minimum of 500 pounds each to local breweries, where the breweries will work to produce the area’s favorite craft beers.

While 1886 is still in it’s construction stages right now, it plans to be fully operational by the end of May.