Doyle Lentz is a barley grower in the Rolla, North Dakota area and a representative with the North Dakota Barley Council. During an interview at the 2018 KMOT Ag Expo in Minot, he said the barley industry is coming off nine years of strong crops but is facing some challenges with trade.
“Barley is a contracted crop. About 90 percent of the production is under contract,” he explained, “We’ve had exceptional crops the last nine years in a row, so the supply of barley right now, like other commodities, is through the roof. Consequently, the contracts are level at best. Maybe a little bit down.”
Lentz said there are some trade opportunities with Mexico, but those opportunities are stalled along with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“Maybe if we can get NAFTA wrapped up, we can expand the acreage again,” he said.
Mexico and Canada are top priorities for the U.S. barley industry. More than 95 percent of barley exports from the United States are to those two countries. Canada gets barley for feed, while Mexico gets barley for malt. That malt ultimately becomes Mexico’s famous beers.
Mexico is a top producer of beer and it is also a deficit country when it comes to barley. Producers there are not able to grow enough barley for the breweries, so the country must supplement through trade with other countries.
“They were getting it from us,” Lentz said. “Unfortunately, the European Union is putting a lot of pressure on them right now given the climate we’re under right now with NAFTA. (Mexico) wants assurances with NAFTA, they don’t particularly want a wall, and they want the beer to come back into this country.”
According to the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, Mexico is the United State’s third top largest good trading partner and Canada is the second. The European Union ranks first, when considered as a group.
Despite the stalls with NAFTA that could jeopardize trade with Canada and Mexico, Lentz remains optimistic.
“Hopefully we can get this put away, so we can get back to business as normal.”
North Dakota is one of the nation’s top barley-producing states.