On Friday December 8, Senator Chuck Schumer teamed up with Tom Crowell of Chatham Brewing, Chatham Village Mayor Tom Curran, John Curtin of Albany Distilling, and Rachel Czub, an entrepreneur who plans to open a “grain hub” in the Capital Region, to demand the USDA grant New York special federal insurance to protect malt barley crops.
USDA’s Malting Barley Endorsement (M.B.E.) provides additional protection for growers, for whom Schumer secured crop insurance starting in 2018. However, accessing this insurance funding can prove time-consuming and difficult. M.B.E. would help provide more comprehensive coverage for these growers, and in turn, a more stable market for brewers and distillers.
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That market has grown by 50 percent since the Craft New York Act was passed in 2014. The law lowered taxes and fees, increased support for research, and loosened restrictive regulations. Since then, 340 new craft beverage businesses have opened their doors.
Growing malt barley is no simple process: in order to be used for malting, the barley must meet stringent standards. And since New York State often experiences challenging growing conditions like heavy rains and dry spells, growers in the region need all of the protections they can get.
Raising the stakes even further, farm craft brewers and distillers will be required to use an increasing percentage of ingredients produced in state. Currently, only 20 percent of all hops and 20 percent of other ingredients are required to be grown in New York State. By 2019, that figure is expected to rise to 60 percent; by 2024, 90 percent of all ingredients will be produced in state.
Photo Courtesy of the Online Office for Senator Charles E. Schumer
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“Ensuring local grain availability is critical to our brewing operations here at Chatham Brewing,” said Tom Crowell, co-founder, and owner, Chatham Brewing. “As a decade-old brewery here in Columbia County, we’ve seen our fair share of disruptions in the supply pipe line due to climate and crop predictions. For many of us in New York’s growing craft beverage industry who use our state’s agricultural products to make great beer, providing a way to reduce financial exposure for farmers to grow grains in New York State is an overdue step in the right direction.”
Schumer believes the benefits from M.B.E. will be enjoyed beyond the tap. “Not only do distilleries, and breweries like Chatham Brewing pour local products and jobs into our economy, they also open new tourism opportunities throughout Upstate New York which is why it is important we continue to support this industry and provide them with all of the available tools needed to succeed now and in the future.”