On Thursday, June 10, the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS) released its annual report on hops planted acres. The baseline report shows hop acreage increased by 4% in 2021, a record high.
View full USDA-NASS Jump Report 2021.
To add some context to the report, I called Ann George, the executive director of Hop Growers of America (HGA). I’m glad I did, because Ann pointed out four pieces of context that are very helpful in interpreting these numbers:
- The first was that the 4% growth figure in the report is not exactly a fair comparison. Why? Because the number is 2021 acres planted versus 2020 acres harvested, and 2020 has been a pretty abnormal year. If we go back to the initial planting report from last year, it showed 59,174 acres in the United States (or, more specifically, the Pacific Northwest, which is what this report covers). Thursday’s figures showed 58,641 acres. The difference is that COVID-19 hit immediately after planting, and so some acres ended up going unused. Using the 2019 figure reduces growth by one percentage point.
- The second is that some of the “new” acres aren’t actually new, but were planted in 2019. So why weren’t they in the 2019 report? Here’s a perfect example of why you need to understand what stats actually measure and how they’re calculated. While most growers in Idaho and Washington chain acres in their first year and try to get a harvest, many growers in Oregon don’t chain their newly planted acres or report them. to USDA, so Oregon acres have some delay in showing up in the report. We don’t know exactly how many acres that is, but that’s another factor where “growth” isn’t really “growth.”
- Ann also pointed out that some of the acres that were “harvested” last year suffered severe damage during the late-season windstorms that hit Yakima. So 2019 had additional acres earmarked for harvest that actually saw no harvest.
- Finally, she pointed out that some growth may have been built into the strategy of traders and growers, regardless of demand trends, as both often use a phased approach to bring new varieties to market. .
Overall, Ann pointed out that while some might wonder why we’ve seen an increase in acreage after a tough year for hopped beers, the factors above add context that helps explain some of the increases.
In this context, I spent some time with the report and wanted to highlight the following points:
- There are still a lot of variety changes going on, with probably around 4,000 acres of varieties in addition to new acres.
- Most of the growth continues to be in aromatic varieties, with Citra seeing about 1,000 acres of growth (about half of the total) and CTZ and Pahto collectively down about 800 acres.
- Cashmere, a public dual purpose and flavor hop, has grown nearly 300 acres.
- Centennial continued its long decline, while Cascade actually rebounded a bit.
- Strata continues to increase in Oregon, rising from 7% to 11% of acres planted in the state.
- Idaho continues to grow the fastest in percentage terms (although Washington has grown more in total area) and is expanding its lead in area over Oregon.
Planting is only the first step in the process and Brewers Association staff will monitor conditions as the harvest progresses. It’s too early to tell much, but for anyone worried about drought conditions in the West, the areas that supply Yakima are very close to historical snowfall averages and Oregon hop growers depend mostly well water rather than runoff so no major water. concerns at this stage of the season.