The quality and consistency of the regional barley crop attracted Briess to this area, said Gordon Lane, Briess company president in an interview Tuesday.
“It’s just very nice barley,” Lane said.
Rick Redd, regional manager of Riverland Ag, said a letter announcing the acquisition went out to growers Tuesday. He said it’s an exciting development.
“This further emphasizes the value of this growing area and our producers who consistently provide volumes and a high quality crop out of this area,” Redd said.
He called it a “win-win situation for everybody.”
“It will give the growers a direct contact with a malting company, which is important for crop insurance and competitive advantage in the marketplace,” Redd said.
Briess is heavily involved in the craft brewing industry, Lane said.
“We service everybody from the home brewer on up to Anheuser-Busch,” Lane said.
Under an agreement, Briess will own the assets but Riverland will continue to operate the barley program for the next three years.
“We’re doing a slow transition so we can learn everything that these guys know,” Lane said. “We are very interested in keeping the current employees intact — and long-term, too.”
Riverland has four full-time employees. During the harvest rush, it has hired about eight seasonal employees, Redd said.
For growers and local employees, little will change. Redd said the acquisition will not affect growers’ contracts for the crop year.
“It will be no different. There will be no effect. Riverland is still managing the operation and honoring the contracts. We’re working on behalf of Briess,” Redd said. “This will be pretty seamless.”
Riverland has contracts with more than 200 growers. Beyond the Powell Valley, its coverage area stretches from Riverton to the Montana communities of Hardin and Bozeman, and the areas in between.
The barley processing facilities in Ralston and Powell were owned by Busch Agricultural Resources until 2010, when Minnesota-based Riverland Ag purchased it.
Lane said Briess representatives first visited the facility in Ralston last summer.
“After looking at it, we decided we really wanted to focus on this area,” Lane said.
The acquired facilities allow Briess to have a “constant source of quality malting barley for future growth. Having a barley procurement program in place has become necessary since barley has become a niche crop,” Lane said in a news release.
This is the first facility of this kind for Briess.
In addition to craft brewing, Briess has gotten involved in the craft distilling industry recently.
The grain-based company also supplies its all-natural ingredients to small and major food companies. However, the local facilities will continue to be barley based, Lane said.
“This plant will be focused on barley. We’re not planning on bringing other grains through at this time,” Lane said. “I won’t say that in the future we won’t, but as of right now, we’re staying strictly barley focused.”
Acquiring the storage facility in a barley-growing region was instrumental to Briess’ plans, Lane said. He said the facilities provide rail transportation directly to Briess malting operations in Wisconsin.
Briess remains one of the few family-owned malting companies in the world, employing more than 150 people at its two locations in Wisconsin.
“We’re a very stable company, formed in 1876,” Lane said.
He said Briess is committed to the area and is “looking to do more out here.”
“For us, it’s a great future,” Lane said.