Collin Watters (1), Cassidy Marn (1), Buzz Mattelin (1); (1) Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, Great Falls, MT, U.S.A.


Farmers have been called the “original environmentalists” because they have always depended on the health and long-term productivity of the ecosystems they utilize to make a living for their families. Since the days of the American Dust Bowl and subsequent conservation enlightenment, farm families have continued to strive for true sustainability in their businesses. As more and more attention is focused on sustainability from Main Street to Wall Street, malt barley producers are ready to answer the call and do their part. This discussion aims to highlight the many social, economic and environmental benefits of malt barley production in the United States from a historic perspective, as well as look to what the future may hold. The inherent nature of malt barley makes it an ideal crop for many farmers throughout the northern plains and Pacific Northwest as it requires little moisture and chemical input compared with competing crops. Recent improvements in precision farming technologies, soil conservation and health measures, as well as irrigation efficiencies, have enabled malt barley growers to maximize production using fewer resources over time. In addition, diversification of plant genetics has led to more malt barley being produced in rain fed, or unirrigated areas, and the establishment of winter barley varieties now allows growers to conserve more water. The U.S. malting industry is also in full support of growers who seek further operational efficiencies, offering many different programs that help growers track progress and identify best management practices. In all, a sustainably produced beer begins with sustainably grown barley, which U.S. malt barley growers will continue to deliver.

Collin Watters holds a B.S. degree in agriculture science and an MBA in agriculture economics from Western Illinois University. He worked for the Montana Department of Agriculture in business development and management roles from 2005 to 2014. Since January 2014 he has served as the executive vice president of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, whose mission is to foster the sustainability and prosperity of Montana’s wheat and barley farmers.