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USDA expands barley insurance in NY, helps breweries

The US Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency will expand its conventional barley crop insurance to 13 new counties in New York state this year and an additional 16 counties in 2017.

The new insurance will cover all upstate counties. The RMA will also begin offering coverage for malting barley in four counties in 2017.

Before this announcement, barley crop insurance was available in only 28 New York counties. According to US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, there has been a 72 percent increase in farm-based breweries, cideries and distilleries since 2011.

MORE: Malt houses key to truly NY beer

This growth in craft spirits, ciders and beer has created huge demand for New York-grown barley and other grains.

Expanding crop insurance for barley is an important step to sustain and improve the viability of our farms and connected industries, Gillibrand said in a release.

Gillibrand said that 2,000 acres of malting barley are already being grown in New York. Both Gillibrand and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, hope the increase in insurance coverage spurs more growth in agriculture and related industries.

Under an RMA policy for 2017, if a farmer holds a contract to sell malted barley and suffers a yield loss, the insurance will pay up to 1.85 times of the RMA-established price for barley for that loss.

The insurance is especially helpful when considering the New York State Farm Brewery Act. It was passed in 2012, and streamlined the license process for a lot of breweries. Many in Monroe County, including Fairport, Swiftwater and Lost Borough breweries, operate under the farm brewery license.

The law dictates that a certain percentage of grain and hops used in beer production must be produced in New York. Currently, the law calls for 20 percent of ingredients to be New York-grown. That number jumps to 60 percent in 2019, and will increase to 90 percent by 2024.