NY seeking a comeback for hops growers

ALBANY, NY -- A bill to help resuscitate the hops growing industry in New York has passed an important step in committee.

S.5078, a bill sponsored by State Senator David Valesky (D-Oneida), on Wednesday made it through the New York State Senate Committee on Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business.

The bill requires that a large percentage of the hops and other ingredients used to brew beer at a farm brewery be purchased within the state. At one time, that was a given practice since in the late 19th Century abut 90% of the nation's supply of domestic hops was grown in New York. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee for further review. A companion bill is carried by Agriculture Committee Chairman Bill Magee in the State Assembly.

A sharp increase in recent years in the number of small breweries in New York, with even more in the process of development n such places as Saratoga and Schoharie counties, has given rise to a call for more locally-grown hops. A tangible piece of evidence of that demand came when the Northeast Hop Alliance held its convention and seminar in Troy,NY, back in November.

According to the New York Farm Bureau, the agriculture and beer industries in New York already are major job creating engines, contributing more than $4.7 and $1.2 billion into our economy each year, respectively.

“This bill represents a true win-win,” said Julie Suarez, director of public policy for New York Farm Bureau. “The licensing provisions will allow a farm brewer to bottle and sell their products on or off premises and in the wholesale or retail markets. This opens up new and exciting opportunities for farmers to enter the craft beer business and to increase farm related tourism. At the same time, the provisions that require farm brewers to use an escalating percentage of locally grown hops, will stimulate new opportunities for growers. Hop barns once dotted New York’s landscape, and if this bill is enacted, they will again.”

"This legislation is a real victory for the agricultural community and small businesses. In addition to providing new opportunities for farmers through increasing demand for local products used in beer production, it will stimulate agri-tourism much like we’ve seen with farm wineries in New York, and has the potential to create new jobs," said Valesky, the Senate sponsor.

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