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Minor hop states move to build acreage

The Pacific Northwest overwhelmingly dominates U.S. hop production but minor states in the Midwest and East Coast are building their small acreages.
Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Published on February 9, 2018 3:36PM

Dormant hop yard at West McCreadie Road and North Wilgus Road east of Grandview, Wash., Feb. 7. Vines will sprout and climb strings to overhead wires in spring. Industry leaders are warning growers to stop increasing acreage.

Dan Wheat/Capital Press

Dormant hop yard at West McCreadie Road and North Wilgus Road east of Grandview, Wash., Feb. 7. Vines will sprout and climb strings to overhead wires in spring. Industry leaders are warning growers to stop increasing acreage.

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MOXEE, Wash. — While Washington, Idaho and Oregon account for 98 percent of U.S. hop production, 26 other states making up the remaining 2 percent continue to add acreage, according to Hop Growers of America.

The organization released its annual statistical report, Feb. 6, showing 26 non-Pacific Northwest states totaling 2,503 harvested acres in 2017 up 18.87 percent from 2,106 in 2016. It was 881 in 2014.

“While they did increase, most of those acres were planted in 2016 or even earlier, prior to the decrease in craft beer’s year over year growth curve,” said Ann George, administrator of Hop Growers of America and the Washington Hop Commission, both in Moxee.

“It’s unlikely that any of the non-PNW states will grow to the level of PNW states in acreage although Michigan and several others are certainly developing the infrastructure and continuing to work very hard to do things right,” George said.

Michigan is the leader at 810 harvested acres in 2017, up from 650 the year before. New York is at 400, up from 300. Wisconsin is at 297, the same as the year before. Colorado held steady at 200, California remained at 130 and Minnesota was 120 up from 73.

Most hop producers outside the PNW serve small craft breweries close to home but some are exporting hops to Canada and Europe, said Jaki Brophy, communications director of the same two organizations.

The Yakima Valley, where close to 80 percent of the nation’s hops are grown, is close to the 45th parallel north latitude providing a length of daylight hours conducive the best yields and, like Idaho, has a dry climate and normally abundant water, Brophy said.

Another big advantage is Yakima Valley growers can plant in the spring and harvest in the fall, as can Idaho a little, but other states have to wait two to three years to get a full yield, a former Yakima hop broker has said.

Non-PNW states are challenged by lack of access to many popular proprietary varieties although some regions have started their own breeding programs, George said. They also cope with more disease from humidity and rainfall, she said.

The statistical report shows Washington at 38,438 harvested acres in 2017, Oregon at 7,851 and Idaho at 6,993. It also shows Washington at 78.7 million pounds harvested and Idaho overtaking Oregon for the first time at 13.7 million pounds versus Oregon’s 11.9 million. It estimates the other 26 states at 1.8 million pounds.

Many industry leaders are warning against continued acreage expansion in 2018 as all key indicators suggest aroma hops have caught up with craft brewery demand, the report states.

Conversely, alpha hop inventories for large brewers appear to have worked through a decade-long oversupply and any shortage now is expected to be met with increase alpha acreage in Germany and transition of some aroma acres back to alpha in the U.S., the report states.

The 2017 U.S. crop of 104.3 million pounds is valued at $617.8 million with the average per pound price of $6.22 in Washington and $5 each in Oregon and Idaho.



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