Farmers say they’ll plant more barley this year (copy)

BILLINGS — Montana farmers say they’ll seed 9.34 million acres this year, the lowest amount in five years, despite favorable spring moisture.

Details of what Montana farmers intend to grow were released in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Prospective Plantings report, a survey-based inventory produced at the end of every march.

Farmers were expected to seed 130,000 fewer wheat acres. The state would rank fourth nationally for wheat acres this season at 5.3 million, while other states are expected to push national acres upward 9%.

If there’s a beneficiary of Montana’s declining wheat acres, it’s likely barley. Malt barley for beer making is a staple crop in Montana, which ranks No. 1 nationally for barley acres and should see 6% growth this year.

Working in barley’s favor, said farmer Charlie Baumgarner, is a low demand for fertilizer. When priced similar to wheat, barley pulls ahead because it doesn’t require urea to boost protein like wheat. Low protein barley produces clear beer. Urea has been selling as high as $700 to $800 a ton.

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