NPR: Spreading the Climate Change Message To Montana Barley Farmers

"A crop of irrigated barley. Barley growing on the Camas Division."

“A crop of irrigated barley. Barley growing on the Camas Division.” Department of the Interior. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Flathead Irrigation Project, Montana. (1947 – 1952)

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Some of Montana’s dry field barley farmers had a bad year.

Montana Barley Fields Become Front Line For Climate Change And Beer

January 11, 20188:00 AM ET


A bumper sticker spotted in Montana reads, “No barley, no beer.” It’s a reminder that Montana’s barley farmers are struggling. Barley is an unforgiving crop that needs a precise recipe of water and sunshine to thrive — too much of either will cause it to wither and die. And amid a changing climate and unpredictable seasons, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Food and climate reporter Ari LeVaux (@AriLeVaux) joins Here & Now‘s Robin Young to talk about his recent article on the issue, reported in collaboration with The Weather Channel and the Food & Environment Reporting Network.

On visiting Montana barley fields during a flash drought

“In this case, [the fields] were dried up about two months early. That particular field had a dry-farmed crop of barley. We had to make a distinction in Montana between irrigated barley, in which the grower can turn the water on when necessary, and dry-farmed, in which the crop is planted and then hopefully harvested at the end of the season, but not much is done in between. So that dead field was a dry-farmed field that dried up in the flash drought of 2017. May and June were nice and wet, and all of a sudden the water stopped and the heat set in, and just did not relent, and by the time I made it out there, this was about three weeks into the flash drought and the barley was starting to die.”

On how the farmers talk — and don’t talk — about climate change

“It’s still a taboo subject in red-state America. Nobody wants to use it, even though they see it happening all around them. So they come up with different ways of talking about what’s happening around them, like, ‘The weather sure is different,’ or ‘unseasonable,’ or ‘Mother Nature is really effing with us.’ Maybe you could say, ‘Well, the climate’s kinda changing a little bit.’ But you couldn’t say ‘climate change.’ ”

On farmers discussing climate change in private

“Especially the younger farmers. As for why they don’t actually talk about it with each other, it’s an interesting question.”

Read more:

The original article referenced in the interview was posted in December;

Climate change threatens Montana’s barley farmers – and possibly your beer

Warmer and more unpredictable weather has made it ever more challenging to grow malt barley, a crop that must meet exacting standards before it can be brewed into beer.

By Ari LeVaux, December 13, 2017

The heat last summer in Montana was brutal and unprecedented. Dry winds fanned wildfires across one million acres, ravaging grasslands in the eastern part of the state and scorching the timbered mountains west of the continental divide. In the tiny town of Power, which sits in the foothills of the Rockies, smack in the middle of the state’s grain belt, the smoke wasn’t as bad as elsewhere. But the relentless heat and lack of rain posed a serious threat to the area. This “flash drought,” as it became known, was devastating the crop that has driven the local economy for three generations: malt barley.

Read more:

People in distress are sometimes more receptive to false narratives.

The Flathead Indian Irrigation Project was established in 1908 to help farmers through bad years. Parts of Montana are currently suffering a severe drought, but droughts in Montana are not a new phenomenon.

A better irrigation network and greater reservoir capacity, to reduce dependency on the vagaries of the weather, would help barley farmers a lot more than the usual climate remedies. Wind turbines and solar panels would not help direct more rain to the fields of dryland farmers suffering through a drought.

101 thoughts on “NPR: Spreading the Climate Change Message To Montana Barley Farmers

  1. It’s Global Warming (or CAGW), not Climate Change.

    • Never forget the word “fraud”, after Climate Change.

      After all, they had to change it from “Glboal Warming”, when the world didn’t warm.

    • Warmer and more unpredictable weather. Sorry I must be suffering from a Rip Van Winkle moment. At what time in the history of mankind was weather predictable beyond a 3 day forecast?

  2. Canada has a lot of Fresh Water. It’s time we developed this resource on a continental level.

    No Beer 🍺 would also be the end of the world as we know it. Water plus CO2 plus fertilizer makes for perpetual beer. All in favor….

    • One small river near where I live that flows on average of 300 m3/s would supply every human on the planet 🌍 with daily drinking water for eternity. Ok, I know getting to them may be an issue, but this notion that the world is short on fresh water is total bogus. What is wrong is leftist Marxists controlling who has access to fresh water, and development of infrastructure to deliver water.

      It’s the same idea of limiting energy usage and fabricating some story how using energy and creating CO2 is destroying the climate. Not much different really from ancient times when High Priests invoked this or that weather god to be responsible for good or bad weather/climate.

      • On the west coast where I used to live the rainfall fell short of been classified as a rain forest area by 13 inches a year on average. So we had lots of rain. We also had severe water rationing in the summer because the Lefty greener’s over the years found ways to restrict the water reserves to limit its usage. Even though the main water source lake still had 100 feet of water in it we were only allowed to take the top 20 feet from the lake as our drinking water supply. The greener’s first lobbied to make the area around this lake a provincial park and when that was done they limited the amount of water to be taken out of this lake. They also had restrictions put in place for access to the lake and as a result the work need to maintain the water supply became very difficult. Also during the limited rainfall season in the summer 60% of our drinking water had to be used to “maintain” the water flow to protect the fish population in the outflow creek that was also the supply to the water plant. Every other creek and river during this time either went dry or had a very low flow coming out of it except for this one creek. It is all about control for the left.

    • What’s really funny is that very little barley or hops go into a lot of popular beers. Touring a Budweiser brewery is quite educational; the tour guide brags about how they now use rice and corn instead of that old-fashioned barley. No wonder craft breweries are popping up like mushrooms after a rain….

      • Hi PMK …
        You are so correct about craft houses. Seems there is a new craft brewery in the news daily. Recently read a funny poster about craft beers…went something like, “All this attention to craft beers has made my drinking problem into an acceptable hobby.” ☺

        Adjuncts (sources of carbs other than barley such as wheat, rice, corn) are very important in global brewing industries and have been used for decades (centuries), but barley remains the main ingredient in most beers today…not all. I don’t drink, but pretty sure I am correct.


      • No wonder Budweiser has such a bad taste. (I was going to say it tastes like piss but then someone would surely have asked how did I know what piss tastes like)

      • I went on a Budweiser tour with a German visitor. Every stop, he said in a loud voice “So that’s why it tastes so bad!”. They guide couldn’t wait until we were dumped into the tasting room. My guest did like the Killian Red that they were brewing under contract…

        • That is hilarious! I did the same thing when my hubby and I toured the Jacksonville plant. We used to brew a lot of beer at home but switched over to wine of late. It was shocking to see the minuscule amount of hops they put in those huge vats. No wonder American commercially-brewed beer has so little flavor.

      • So, as the story goes, the Germans were simply amazed at how much beer the American macro breweries sell. So they got sample of Budweiser and Miller Lite and sent them off to the lab for analysis.

        The results came back…

        Wait for it…

        Both horses have diabetes.

    • Earthling2,

      With respect, you have the formula wrong, or at least the steps out of order. Water plus yeast plus barley (yeast fertilizer) makes perpetual beer. It’s just a fortuitous coincidence that the yeast produces CO2 and alcohol at the same time. Hops are a side dish added for flavor.

  3. But it is the farmers who have got it right. They do believe in climate change – and always did. They just call it weather – as all sensible human beings did for 100,000 years. Why use a newfangled concept or expression when the English language already has an excellent description of the phenomenon?

    • Why a newfangled concept or expression – because if you do that, you can make it seem that you are inventing something new, and if its new and you can claim you solved it, you are a hero (in your own eyes). Humility is not a concept available to the ‘new’ scientists.

  4. So there’s this area that frequently gets sufficiently dry that some farmers have previously installed very expensive irrigation system so they can reliably get crops. One farmer, who had not installed an expensive watering system, had a crop die because it got too dry. This is a story because…?

    • It is a story because anti-capitalists, anti-Americans, anti-growth socialists want to make a scare to get control on resources, like water in Montana. Red-green socialist ‘deep-eco’ misanthropes in action. If I was a farmer, I’d be really scared about complaining that I run out of water. The socialist’s answer is to invoke a tax rise for those who use irrigation.

    • It’s a story because people who live in cities are clueless and will buy the nonsense and lies presented. Even the young farmers may, since perserverance and dealing with adversity is not popular anymore. Everyone expects the government to mail a check when the weather is bad and a crop fails.

    • This is pure hype and cherry-picking. Barley is grown over a wide area on the Northern Plains and Canadian Prairies. Yields and quality vary every year, and good and bad results can occur within short distances, depending on the distribution of timely rains. Malt barley still gets a premium price, so some breweries must want it. Beer is good- some are better!

  5. “It’s still a taboo subject in red-state America.”…and they pretend to wonder why people have had it with all of them……divide and conquer I guess

    • Do you feel an obligation to disparage so many of the inhabitants of some of the sh*iteholes that have been run into the ground by governments that consist of neo-liberal, neo-racist left wing fascists? Sh*iteholes such as the strange little foreign city-state that is called The District of Columbia?

  6. The dust bowl years of the 1930’s left many, many farming families walking off the land. Unsure whether states as far west as Montana were affected

      • It’s a bit odd?

        They do not list “flash droughts”.
        One suspects that “flash droughts” are literal inventions by alarmists, so they can add fear to their writings..

    • I lived and worked in western North Dakota for years, yes people in the thirties left large parts of western North Dakota in the 30s as they did in eastern Montana land south of the Missouri is still marginal for farming. Large parts of it in North Dakota was bought up by the federal government in the thirties and turned in the National Grass Lands, Clinton declared much of that wilderness area, how can land once farmed be wilderness area is beyond me, one thing for certain it is not pristine. North of the Missouri the land is better for farming living out there has always been hard the droughts come and go, I heard a story of trying to farm in the thirties consisted of primary staying on the north side of the sitting on a five gallon bucket for at least two years waiting for the rains to return. My grandparents were trying to farm in Minnesota at the time, on my father side his dad lost the farm, on my mothers side her family hung on to it, but not without some problems, my cousins still farm it but that may be the last generation on it, we all are growing old and the younger generation has all ready left the land. The same thing has already occurred with my fathers mother’s family, her brothers did farm, they pasted away without a younger generation taking over. Drought is not the only thing that cause people to leave the land.

  7. Since the turn of this decade I have planted hardy and completely ignored plants that are adapted to a Mediterranean climate. Had I done the latter I would be tending bare soil by now as the new normals of drought we were told by university experts in 2011-12 immediately turned to flood, just as the Texas and California perma droughts inevitably turned to flood. Let them out their personal, not government, money where their wet mouths are and set up an agri business based on their message and watch bankruptcy follow as flies follow excrement.

  8. I’ve lived in farm country my whole life and have many friends, relatives and acquaintances who farm. None of them ever seem to be happy with the weather. Too wet to get in the fields in the spring. No rain once the seed is in to germinate. Too wet, too dry, too cool, too hot during the summer. Too wet in the fall to dry the corn low enough. It always seems to rain the day after the hay is cut. Yet every fall it seems the fields are full of tall strong corn, soy beans look great and traffic on the town and county roads is slowed by tractors pulling large wagon loads to local coops. Then you can hear farmers talking about yields and complaining about the low prices because of the dang surplus.

    I’m not disparaging farmers. It’s a tough business with big capital investments, generally lots of debt and substantial risks – including unfavorable weather. But a good year or two can be very profitable and make up for the few really bad ones. Oh, and higher CO2 concentrations are also good for farming.

    • If a farmer is not complaining about something, you should really start worrying that the end is near.

  9. “Flash drought.”

    Wow. It takes a special kind of stupid to think up that term to associate with a changing climate.
    And When have farmers ever not talked about the weather? I can remember my Granddad would start every morning listening to the weather report, first thing. It was his most important piece of info everyday to know what he needed to anticipate out in the fields that day. Farmers obsess on the weather. The climate hucksters are just now figuring this out.

    Hey NPR and Robin Young, it’s called weather. What a bunch of maroons pushing an agenda.

    • If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, here in the Great NorthWet, it will be a flash drought. Two days in a row and we’ll experience extreme reductions in ‘squishy’ lawn walking.

    • Yes, “flash drought” is utter nonsense. It is a term that appears to have been coined about 5 yrs ago. There’s a special kind of stupid who buys into such semantics.

      • I’m a farmer and here’s what ” flash drought” means to me. I plant my farm and the spring weather is good. Lots of sun, fertilizer and rain. This sets up my crops for stress if the weather turns hot, dry and windy. How? Shallow roots.
        Lots of moisture in the topsoil encourages lush leafy plants with a weak root system. The water table declines faster than a stressed plant can grow deep roots.

    • ‘Flash drought’, huh? I grew up in the cornbelt. Never heard of such a thing. Words fail me when I run into this kind of twaddle.

      Flash drought, my fat Aunt Harriet! There is no such thing. Just ’cause those dweebs in labs made it up, that don’t mean it’s real.

      Seems to me that city slickers are unable to function adequately in the real world. I’m waiting for them to stampeded to the nearest underground shelter to escape The Doom Which Looms.

      • Thanks for pointing this out. Really, a place that has some regularly irregular drought, can not have an unexpected, short-spanning drought. When it stops raining, it’s dry. After a while, a drought follows. There is nothing flashy in it.

      • The compelling-story-starved media (there’s WAY too many of them to begin with) and attention-seeking, self-serving idiots will eventually ruin everything for everyone. I think we’re about 97% of the way there already.

  10. Dry spells have never happened to dry land farmers before? Never?
    Perhaps is it taboo to be honest about natural droughts, when you have a preconceived narrative and agenda?

    • JMac, I saw that, too. Looks like projection to me, it’s the NPR reporter who has the “taboo” problem, he can’t say this severe weather is anything but man-caused. For the locals, “climate change” is not taboo, it’s not even a thing. Why would they mention it? Likely they are typical polite midwesterners who are nice enough not to say anything that would trigger their guest, the snowflake from NPR.

  11. Drought or as our Scottish neighbor called it, drouth rhymes with truth, a commodity in short supply over at NPR. The summer of 2017 was dry but nothing like the summer of 1961. That summer the cracks in the ground were so deep the old-timers swore that if you held your nose real close to em you could smell Chinese food cooking.

  12. It’s not just water that leftist Marxists like to control for anyone that they can get in their power. The essence of leftist Marxism is to control the majority of the people on Earth, in a way that makes Sharia Law look lightweight. Global Warming – CAGW -Climate Change is their atomic weapon.

  13. The most hilarious part of the article is where they flame climate change has driven barley production out of the midwest to the west of the rockies. This was shocking news to a Missourian who sees barley every time he travels through kansas.

  14. I think they’re scrambling desperately for even a pittance of control. They forget that this isn’t the 1920s or 1930s or whatever and people are not as uninformed or uneducated as they think we are – or as gullible.

    • Sara, I may wish to argue the point that we are not as gullible as the 1920-1930 American. We have an entire world that has bought the Nigerian Prince scheme of AGW! Not gullible?

      • fxk, did you not know that the chubby little sponge who WAS the Nigerian Prince has been arrested?
        He was arrested Dec. 31, 2017 in Slidell, LA.

        I guess I should have been more specific, because yes, there are plenty of gullible people in the “us not them” group, but the people who are falling for the CAGWer scam are at a separate level of gullibility. I think it’s on the level of the phony TV preacher. It isn’t “send me all your money and Jesus will save you”. It’s on the same level, but it is dependent on the people who are leaderless (as they see it), hate Trump because…, and have a slacker education (my view of it). “Believe what I’m saying, and I’ll save you from (pick one) cold weather, starvation, no modish clothing, no electronic toys.”

        Some of the rest of us might fall for the Nigerian Prince money scam, but we have a more jaundiced view of the Nigerian Prince climate scam, which has deteriorated into grabs for attention, money and control.

    • Yes, exactly, this is about control. As I said above before seeing this, control on water by socialists will end up with high water taxes.

  15. You can smell the desperation in the climate worriers big time these days. I almost felt sorry for the “researchers” with their edgy rationalizations on how frozen sharks, hard thick ice along Boston waterfront, Gulf turtles and alligators paralyzed with hypothermia and new deep freeze records in the South were “what we can expect” in a warming climate. The two Nobel buddies, Al Gore and Michael Mann falling into each other’s arms for comforting. Al’s movie a bust and only phony clicks on on Climate Dreareality cartoons.They ignored that Europe and Asia were cold too and it snowed in the Sahara.

    A guy I knew worked in an abbatoir for summer holidays when he was a student and he said the worst was when sheep were brought in because they seemed to know what was going on and they had a haunting look in their eyes. This ancient memory popped in to my head while thinking about the end of climate days.

    Ya know, I think thes guys really did believe in all this stuff. Not now, of course, but, like the sheep, there’s no way but forward. Another outbreak of Climate Blues in the offing? There are no safe places for these folks (except maybe an unfulfilled retirement).

  16. More climate ambulance chasing. You can follow drought wind and flood around and in their aftermath make claims about them being exacerbated by CO2 having raised from .0035% to .004%, but unless you used that theory to correctly predict those events, your retro-analyses are no more than speculations.

    • Pop you can be sure there’s a model run that can be found somewhere in an archive, that will have simulated every conceivable weather event. So Mister Man can say “it’s in the models”

  17. When asked if there was enough soil moisture to allow his grain crop to finish filling out and ripe, the dyslexic dry farmer replied “Just barley.”

  18. Until recently, NPR allowed commenting on their articles. Too many people were making inconvenient comments however and the stupidity of NPR was regularly put on display, so they just shut it down.

  19. an overabundance of barley available in the global market.

    From a year ago (1/27/17):

    Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors informed barley growers this year that they will only be purchasing a fraction of the malt barley they have in recent years.
    The two brewing giants say the decision was brought on by an overabundance of barley available in the global market.

    Wheat to barley ratio in MT is about 6 to 1.

  20. You don’t grow ‘malt barley’. You grow barley and then you ‘malt’ it. That’s starting the germination process and halting it in the middle to produce the desired level of starch.

  21. It’s the well-known carbon cycle.
    Increasing atmospheric CO2 is forcing increasing barley production. This decreases the relative cost of making and selling beer.
    Lower-prices and availability increases consumption which, in two ways, eventually gets CO2 back into the atmosphere.

    • The ‘never too much sunshine’ I can certainly believe, but I don’t think I’ve EVER heard English rain described as ‘just the right amount’.


  22. As an ex beer drinker and barley grower I can only say:
    Aw diddums. Poor little mites. Ma Nature is effing with you is she?

    Its not At All as if you’ve been messing with her, what with tractors, cultivators, annual plants, monoculture, artificial fertiliser, artificial water not the very least.
    Oh he11 no. You’re just sweet little innocents growing beer like our fathers and grandfathers did.
    Have you ever heard of anything more (intellectually) pathetic as a ‘Flash Drought’?
    Take the gold medal at the buck passing event in the next Olympics why don’t you.

    Two words in your ears lads: Soil Erosion

    Take this ‘flash drought’ as a warning shot.
    If you persist, and as brain-dead beer drinkers/sugar eaters you most certainly will, you will be wiped right off the surface of the Earth just as surely as the Phoenicians, Romans, Himyar, Rapa-Nui along with those who created the Sahara, Australia and desertified the Garden of Eden in modern day Iraq and thge same way as modern Californians are going.

    Squished you will be. And if you turn Montana into a desert, may you be forced to rot in the very he11 you have created.
    It will be for a very long time, if not forever.

    • Nah! Montana will get them before She ever turns into a desert. I have a friend who lives there. She told me there a places in that state where no one ever goes. I told her it sounded ominous. She said it IS.

  23. And lo afore me, Michael and Gavin, and Kevin, Phillip and Stephan, let you unite within holy patriarchy and let no law suit or class action render assunder. Do you take this unholy allegience for good and bad, for sea level rise or fall, plagues, drought, typhoons, pestilence, crop disease and… economic collapse?

    ‘We do!!!’.


  24. NPR is the Pravda of radio.
    For years I gave to publuc radio.
    Stopped years ago and don’t miss it.
    NPR is the main reason.
    Deceptive climate propaganda as discussed here is a great reason for even more people to stop giving.

    • Why would that stop someone from farming? Humans are smarter and better than nature, right? (After all, global warming says we humans have the thermostat for the planet and we know how to use it…..)

  25. Meanwhile, after two weeks of extreme global warming – induced arctic cold, we have just had a flash thaw. With climate change, the weather has become like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. / sarc

  26. Notice that we are getting NPR’s climate-twisted version of how farmers (supposedly) talk or don’t talk about “climate change”. No farmer worth their salt would blame “climate change”. They know that the weather has always varied, and there are good years and bad ones.

    • Yes Bruce, the fact that farmers don’t buy into CAGW or socialism was quite evident in the last POTUS election statistics.

    • Spot on. I come from Iowa farming stock. I am frequently asked by uncles and cousins what I think of Climate Change. They all think it’s hooey, but assume because I was an engineer (city boy) that I buy into it.
      Their idea of insurance is to plant the whole hill. Most years that results in great crops, but during flood years, they still have a rich crop on the upper hill sides and tops. in drought years, they still have a rich crop on the lower hill sides.
      And of course, some years, the silly Government pays them to plant nothing at all!

  27. Excess of barley in the barley market, huh? Well, find a farmer who has an abundance of barley and another farmer who grows hops, and make Yer Own Brew. Craft beers can be fun.

    It’ll find a market if you do it just right. Let’s call it Climate Flash Catastrophe Ale, and maybe even produce a stout version. I’ll talk to Five Beers about it. He’s in search of the perfect brew.

  28. Grandpa did not have a climate controlled cab on his tractor like these guys today. When I combined soybeans my climate control was the size and type of hat and or jacket I wore. But even as easy as today’s farmers have it compared to grandpa, I still don’t know too many who are falling for the global warming/climate change/extreme weather or whatever new name they come up with. When you’re out in it even in a cooled/heated cab for enough hours, it’s hard not to realize a bs scam when you hear one. Like the old saying, on a different subject, it’s not how deep you plow but the time in the field that’s important.

  29. On visiting Montana barley fields during a flash drought

    Never mind ‘Beelzebub wept’. As Satan is my witness, there is no such thing, nor ever shall be, something that can be described as a “flash drought”. An almost unbelievable abuse of the English language. Streuth.

  30. Would the farmers go for a carbon tax on their fuels, fertilizers, chemicals, electricity, and livelihood in exchange for the NPR offer and the traveling climate change green bible seller?

  31. If you go across the border into Alberta, the farmers in southern Alberta have to irrigate almost every year as a mater of normal practice.

Comments are closed.