Barley worries brewing

Montana State Roundup

Published September 1, 2008  | September 2008 issue

State barley producers are worried that the pending sale of beer giant Anheuser-Busch will cost them a large, reliable customer. Anheuser-Busch, maker of Budweiser, Michelob and other popular beers, buys roughly 25 percent of its malting barley from the "Golden Triangle" in north-central Montana. Many barley farmers sell their best barley to the St. Louis-based company under preseason contracts, locking in sales that in some cases make it easier to secure bank loans for operations and expansion.

Belgian brewer InBev SA's acquisition of Anheuser-Busch—the $52 billion deal is expected to wrap up by year's end—potentially jeopardizes these long-standing contracts. Some Montana barley growers have expressed concern that the new foreign owners of the company might go elsewhere to buy grain. In July, Gov. Brian Schweitzer wrote a letter to InBev urging the company to ensure that “the needs of producers in Montana and America remain a priority in the production of Budweiser and other Anheuser-Busch brews.”

So far InBev, which buys none of its barley from the state, has only promised "a strong commitment" to communities in which Anheuser-Busch has operations.

Phil Davies