Agriculture, Business, Central New York, Consumer, Government

A Push for Insurance of a Grain is Brewing in NY

Empire Brewing Company in Cazenovia, N.Y., is located on 22 acres of farmland, cultivating hops, barley, and herbs. (c) 2017 Mye Owens

Insurance Coverage for Beer Ingredient Provides Benefits for UpState New York

U.S. Senator Schumer and local Brewery agree this would be a positive for growers and consumers of beer.

Mye Owens Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News)

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand barley insurance by starting the process to bring the Malting Barley Endorsement (M.B.E.) to the state of New York.

The M.B.E is a insurance option through the federal government, that protects the production of malt barley, grown by farmers. Schumer says, “If farmers had this premium insurance, it would be a lot better for them, and even more farmers would follow your lead and grow malt barley.” The M.B.E. is currently only available in 11 states.

In a letter Schumer writes to the USDA Secretary, “the New York State Farm Brewing Law requires New York state brewers to source 60% of their ingredients from New York state farms or producers.”

This amount is set to increase by 30% in the year 2024. Schumer continues, “This major increase in demand for locally grown malt barley is a great boon to our New York State producers and agricultural industry. However, without access to the MBE, some producers may decide to forgo planting this crop, which will hold back agriculture and craft breweries across the state.”

Barley is one of the main ingredients in the making of beer. Currently, there are over 200 craft breweries in the state of New York, 27 of those are located in Central New York. The industry of craft beer continues to grow in Upstate New York, at times referred to as “The Napa Valley of Craft Beer.”

Tim Butler, Director of Brewer Operations for Empire Farm Brewery in Cazenovia, not only agrees with Schumer, but also believes that the M.B.E. is likely to lead to a decrease in the price of beer. Butler states, “The key to get them [barley farmers] to drive the price down, is for them to be able to grow more.” Butler explains that ideally if farmers grow more barley, the trickle down effect would be lower prices for barley, resulting in lower beer cost.

Ending his letter stating, “I appreciate your consideration of this request that will help remove obstacles to scaling up New York’s malt barley supply chain while providing farmers with the opportunity to farm higher value-added malt barley I look forward to working with you on this important issue.”, Schumer is hopeful that the USDA will take a serious look at this issue.