When most people look at the beer in front of them they are probably thinking of how it tastes, the friends they are sharing that beer with, and whatever occasion they are celebrating. That’s what beer is all about – taste, connecting with friends and great occasions.

But as a representative of America’s barley growers, I invite beer drinkers on Capitol Hill and inside the administration to look beyond the bottle – and think about the enormous economic contribution beer makes to America’s farmers.


Barley growers are one part of the supply chain that supports the U.S. brewing and beer importing business. But growing barley for malt is crucial to brewing beer. The relationship between our farmers and brewers dates back to the early days of civilization, with the earliest known written reference to raising grains to brew beer stamped on a clay tablet from the Age of Sumeria, more than 1800 BC.

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) anticipated that American barley growers are going to produce nearly 139 million bushels in 2015, with the majority of that being grown under contract to major brewers for malting. That same USDA report attributes the increase in demand for imported malt and malt extract to small brewers.

The value of that barley crop in 2011 was $745.1 million to American agriculture. That’s a significant market for farmers, right here in the U.S., supporting a major manufacturing industry in brewing. Our partners range from the big names, like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, to the small brewers in communities across this great nation.

Together, in a “grains to glass” chain of jobs and economic activity, barley growers are proud to be a part of an American beer industry worth $246.5 million to our nation’s economy. Beer supports more than two million American workers and paid more than $79 billion in wages and benefits in 2012.

And as barley growers (and beer drinkers), we can’t forget that more than 40 percent of what Americans pay at retail for beer goes toward taxes of some kind, on a national average. So even with the value of the grains in each bottle, can or glass, the most expensive ingredient in beer today is taxes. Believe me, I wish it were the barley.

One of these taxes is the federal beer excise tax, levied on every barrel of beer that is imported or brewed in America.

To be clear: a strong beer industry is a strong barley industry.  So we urge Congress to consider the Fair Brewers Excise and Economic Relief (Fair BEER) Act, a bill that would remove barriers to growth in the beer industry, encouraging capital and workforce investment, through simple and fair reform. Recently introduced,  in the House of Representatives by Reps. Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackOvernight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Deficits to average record .3 trillion over next decade: CBO MORE and Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindTreasury watchdog to investigate Trump opportunity zone program How the 31 Democrats in Trump districts voted on impeachment Nearly all Democrats expected to back articles of impeachment MORE, this bipartisan legislation creates a graduated federal excise tax structure while maintaining a level playing field. Under the Fair BEER Act, all brewers and beer importers would pay a rising scale of federal excise tax, starting at zero dollars for the first 7,143 barrels and going up to $18 for every barrel brewed over two million. The Fair BEER Act offers members of Congress an opportunity to support all brewers, from the smallest brewpub down the street, to the upstart brewery, to the biggest job creators.

Brewers and barley farmers have worked together since the dawn of civilization. It’s a history of success that I want to see growing in 2015 and for generations to come. It’s why America’s barley growers welcome Congress to join us in nurturing this important part of American life and industry in the American brewing business.

Lentz is president of the National Barley Growers Association. He is a farmer and barley grower from Rolla, North Dakota.