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Idaho hop acres increase for ninth straight year

Farm workers prepare a hop yard for planting in this file photo. Idaho hop acres are estimated at a record 9,374 this year, which is 12 percent more than the 8,358 acres of hops that were harvested in the Gem State last year.

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – Idaho hop acres rose again in 2020, the ninth straight year that has happened.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates Idaho farmers planted a record 9,374 acres of hops this year, 12 percent more than the 8,358 acres of hops that were harvested in the Gem State last year.

Hops are used as a bittering and flavoring agent in beer.

Propelled by the fast-growing craft brewing industry, Idaho hop acres have risen rapidly since 2011, when 2,265 acres of the crop were harvested in the state. That number rose to 2,596 in 2012 and then 3,356 in 2013, 3,743 in 2014, 4,863 in 2015, 5,648 in 2016, 7,125 in 2017, 8,140 in 2018 and 8,358 in 2019.

While the coronavirus outbreak did not stop Idaho hop acres from rising again this year, it could potentially be what stops the streak at nine years.

Idaho’s hop plants were strung before the shutdowns related to the coronavirus outbreak hit and COVID-19’s impact on the craft brewing industry could result in Idaho hop acres declining next year.

“Everything was planted before COVID hit,” said hop farmer Brock Obendorf, chairman of the Idaho Hop Commission. “(Acres) will go back down next year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went down 10-15 percent next year.”

Total hop acres in Idaho have soared since 2012 and that crop, once just a blip on Idaho agriculture’s overall radar, is now one of the state’s main farm commodities in terms of farm-gate receipts.

The rapid rise in hop acres has been a result of the nation’s fast-growing craft brewing industry but craft brewers were hit hard by the government-ordered shutdowns related to COVID-19.

“COVID shut down all these taprooms,” said Idaho hop farmer Mike Gooding. “They can’t sell beer and most of them don’t have bottling facilities so they can’t use the hops.”

Obendorf said the coronavirus-related shutdowns have caused a lot of pain to the craft brewing industry and as a result, hop growers will also be negatively impacted.

Washington, Idaho and Oregon grow almost all the hops produced in the United States and, according to NASS, hop acreage in the three states combined totaled a record 59,174 in 2020, which is 5 percent higher than the previous record of 56,544 set last year.

NASS estimates Washington growers strung 42,343 acres of hops this year, 4 percent more than they did in 2019, and Oregon growers strung 7,457 acres of hops, 2 percent more than 2019.

NASS has placed the total value of Idaho’s 2019 hop crop at $89 million, which will likely place that crop among Idaho’s top eight farm commodities in terms of total farm-gate receipts when USDA releases that data later this year.

Until very recently, hops was nowhere near the top 10 Idaho farm commodities.

Since 2015, the total value of Idaho hop production has increased from $31 million to $89 million.