Letter to the Editor - USDA's farm aid package leaves malt barley growers behind
June 16, 2020
The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP, gives producers of certain commodities or livestock assistance for losses caused by the coronavirus. The USDA claims that CFAP includes coverage for malt barley, but the rules indicate differently. While on the list of non-specialty crops that are eligible, it is almost impossible to qualify for the assistance. As a farmer, who grows malt barley in the Golden Triangle I know this first-hand.
First, almost all malt barley is contracted with a malt company long before it is planted. This makes it ineligible because it is not “at risk” for the price decline that is the basis for the program. However, it is “at risk” if it hasn’t been delivered and is still in the bin. To get the price in the contract, you must meet the quality specifications in the contract. If you don’t it is considered feed barley and sold at a much lower price.
The longer the barley is stored the less likely it is to meet the necessary standards due to germination. Some growers have been told that they may not be able to deliver the remainder of their 2019 crop until possibly 2021. This is due to reduced demand caused by coronavirus, and has caused malt buyers to cut contracts.
In addition, malt companies have first rights on the crop. This prevents growers from selling to another buyer. Contact your congressional delegation today and insist on CFAP protection for malt barley growers.
Erik Somerfeld, farmer and member of Montana Farmers Union Board of Directors