By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
POCATELLO – Idaho farmers added an additional 1,224 acres of hops this year, an 18 percent increase over 2017, while U.S. hop acres increased 4 percent to a record 55,339.
Idaho for the first time ever took over as the nation’s No. 2 hop producing state last year, surpassing Oregon in total production but not acres. This year, Idaho, which typically enjoys higher hop yields than Oregon, will be No. 2 in acres and production.
Idaho growers strung 8,217 hop acres for harvest in 2018, up from 6,993 in 2017, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, which released the numbers July 2.
Oregon farmers strung 7,849 hop acres, 2 less than during 2017.
Washington remained the unchallenged No. 1 hop state with 39,273 hop acres, a 2 percent increase over the 38,438-acre total for that state in 2017.
According to NASS, Idaho farmers produced 13.7 million pounds of hops last year from 6,993 acres, while Oregon growers produced 11.9 million pounds from 7,851 acres. Idaho hop yields averaged 1,968 pounds per acre in 2017 compared with 1,517 in Oregon.
U.S. and Idaho hop acres have expanded at a rapid rate in recent years, driven by soaring demand for aroma hops from the craft brewing industry.
Idaho hop growers strung 2,423 acres for harvest in 2012 and that number grew to 3,376 in 2013, then to 3,745 in 2014 and then to 4,863 in 2015, 5,648 in 2016 and 6,993 in 2017.
Prior to 2018, U.S. hop acreage increased 80 percent since 2012 and production by 77 percent.
But the supply and demand situation has begun to balance out and according to Hop Growers of America’s annual Statistical Report, released in February, “many industry leaders cautioned against additional acreage being added in the U.S. for the 2018 crop.”
But this year’s increase in acreage didn’t surprise industry leaders, who expected a slight bump because of previously entered hop contracts.
“I think a lot of the increase is due to contracts that people already had in place,” said Idaho hop farmer and Idaho Hop Commission Chairman Brock Obendorf.
HGA Administrator Ann George agreed, saying the increase in acres this year has mostly to do with growers fulfilling multi-year contracts. It took awhile for enough planting stock, particularly for newer hop varieties, to become available to fulfill those contracts, she said.
“Now we’re seeing the last of those acres go in,” George said. “It wasn’t surprising. We knew those were in the pipeline.”
As many contracts come up for renewal next year, it’s likely that U.S. hop acres will level out in 2019 or even decrease, George said.
“As we move into next year, I think we’ll probably see things stabilize at this level or pull back somewhat,” she said.