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NY barley farmers -- and craft beer industry -- get new layer of insurance

Ellen Abbott
Barley, hops and malt on display at Full Boar Craft Brewery in North Syracuse.

There’s good news for barley farmers in central New York and other parts of the state. The federal government will begin offering crop insurance for the grain that is an essential ingredient for brewing beer.

At a small brewpub in North Syracuse today, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said this new insurance fills an important hole.

"Right now, under current law, crop insurance for barley isn’t available in half the counties in our state. So there are many farmers who might want to grow more barley for brewers like this, but are holding back because the risk is too high,” said Gillibrand.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) smells a sample of barley.

She says new U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations now will open up crop insurance for barley growers in 29 counties, including some in central New York. That’s especially important for a bourgeoning farm brewing industry, which will need more state-grown barley in coming years. New York State Brewers Association president David Katleski says under state law, brewers will soon need to source more than half their barley from local growers.

“Keep in mind, right now there are 102 farm breweries in New York state. Once it goes up to 60 percent, we are going to have one heck of a time to get to that, so this type of insurance will allow for farmers to be able to sleep at night when they start planting barley for us,” said Katleski.

Onondaga County barley grower Dan Palladino says insurance is also very important for barley in particular for another reason.

“You plant it in the fall, you plant it in September, so you have fall, spring winter summer, risk with that crop. It’s the one of the few crops that covers all four seasons, and that’s why it’s critical we have insurance for this.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.