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Agriculture

A little help for malt barley farmers

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Cambridge Brewing Co.
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New York farmers are diversifying their cash crops by adding malt barley to their fields.  Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has a plan to jumpstart the state's malt barley farming industry.

Malt barley is a temperamental little plant. It needs to be brought up in very specific conditions in order to yield a quality beer. Adverse weather can destroy entire harvests -- like this past season in places like Idaho where heavy rain took 85 percent of their crop. That's why Schumer is pushing for insurance for New York malt barley farmers.

"The sad fact is, and that's why we're here today, there are just too many obstacles, risks, and costs standing in the way,” said Schumer. “And our job here will be to get federal crop insurance for malt barley here in New York State and then malt barley will take off."

There is increasing demand for malt barley from micro-brewers across upstate New York and legislation to encourage makers to use more local ingredients. The hope is that more farmers will plant malt barley once federal insurance assumes some of the risk.

Jeff Trout, a malt barley farmer in Fayette in the Finger Lakes, says he can see the success his neighbors have had in the wine industry, and it gives him hope.

“We could model our future success and our business model after what's been a very, very successful grape industry/wine model,” said Trout.

Schumer's malt barley proposal also calls for greater access to financing for these farmers.