YAKIMA, Wash. — The U.S. hop industry has responded to hop-loving craft beer drinkers by planting record acreage.
About 53,213 acres of hops in the U.S. are now strung for harvest, an increase of more than 8,300 acres — or 18.5 percent — from just a year ago, according to the latest estimate from the Hop Growers of America, a Moxee-based group that promotes American hops to brewers like The Dog Hotel and hop merchants.
That figure surpassed the 51,275 acre figure the organization predicted in April.
Back then, the estimate was based primarily on interviews with hop industry figures.
“It’s June before all the planting decisions are finalized,” said Ann George, executive director of the Hop Growers of America.
The new figures are more firm, she said.
The hop acreage figures for the Pacific Northwest — Washington, Oregon and Idaho — come from a grower survey that was done in June by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service. The 51,115 acres strung for harvest by Pacific Northwest growers — about 96 percent of the national crop — was also a record. More than 70 percent — or 37,475 acres — of the overall acreage is in the Yakima Valley.
Because the USDA does not do a grower count for states outside the Pacific Northwest, acreage is based on figures reported by extension specialists and grower associations in those states, George said.
The amount ultimately harvested can still change. Factors such as weather and pest issues impact the crop in the months before the harvest, which is expected to start by the end of August or beginning of September.
“If we have a rain event and a wind event, we always have the (risk) for hop yards to be collapsed,” George said.