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Idaho dry bean acres increasing

Sean Ellis
Idaho farmers expect to plant 17 percent more dry bean acres in 2014 compared with 2013, according to USDA estimates.

HOMEDALE, Idaho — Idaho dry bean acres are expected to be up 17 percent this year compared with 2013.

According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Gem State farmers intend to plant 55,000 acres of dry beans in 2014, up from 47,000 last year.

Idaho dry bean acreage plummeted from 69,000 acres in 2012 to 47,000 acres in 2013 but most growers and industry leaders expect it to bounce back this year, though they differ on how much.

“I expect acreage to be up fairly significantly in both the Treasure Valley and Magic Valley areas,” said Don Tolmie, production manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co. in Homedale.

Because wheat and corn prices “were pretty much in the tank the first part of January … a lot of people gravitated toward the dry bean scene,” he added.

Parma farmer Mike Goodson will plant about 100 acres of beans in southwestern Idaho this year, up 25 percent from the 80 acres he planted last year.

“Prices have stayed decent for us and they’re a little more attractive (than some other crops) in this area,” he said. “I think they’re going to be up a little bit this year.”

Bean prices are holding steady, at just under $40 per hundredweight, while prices for grains and other crops such as sugar beets that compete with beans in this area have declined, said Dana Rasmussen, who farms near Paul in southcentral Idaho.

“Between lower grain and sugar prices, people might try planting some more beans this year,” he said. “Beans would definitely be more favorable.”

The improving water supply situation is a wild card this year when it comes to bean acres, said John Dean, president of Idaho Seed Bean Co. in Twin Falls.

Dry beans require less water to plant compared with some other competing crops in Idaho such as corn, potatoes, onions and sugar beets.

“Earlier, when water was going to be an issue, that was pushing some (bean) acres,” he said. “But now that water is not so much of an issue, I’m not sure if bean acres will be switched back to other crops or not.”

Tolmie said the water supply situation, while improved, is still shaky at this point and he believes “a lot of people made up their mind early in the commodity game to plant beans.”

Beans not only require less water to grow, they also don’t need it as late in the year as many other crops, he said.

If beans can get irrigation water until mid-August, they’re good, he said, while sugar beets, corn, onions, potatoes and other crops need it into September.

“That’s one of the things that is driving up bean acreage here,” he said.



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