Idaho bean growers racing weather to bring in crop

Idaho’s 2017 dry bean crop looks good so far but recent rainstorms and a hard frost have some growers and dealers concerned about the remaining crop still in the field.
Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Published on October 9, 2017 9:46AM

Dry beans lie in windrows waiting to be picked up in a field near Twin Falls, Idaho, Sept. 25. Farmers and bean dealers say the state’s 2017 crop is mostly in and looks good so far but recent rainstorms and cold temperatures have them concerned about the beans that are still in the field.

Courtesy Bill Bitzenburg

Dry beans lie in windrows waiting to be picked up in a field near Twin Falls, Idaho, Sept. 25. Farmers and bean dealers say the state’s 2017 crop is mostly in and looks good so far but recent rainstorms and cold temperatures have them concerned about the beans that are still in the field.


Much of Idaho’s dry bean crop has been harvested and looks good, according to farmers and bean dealers who grow and distribute the state’s $70 million bean crop.

But a series of recent rainstorms, coupled with a hard frost, has some bean growers worried about the remaining crop, most of which is in the field drying in windrows waiting to be picked up.

“For us, yields have been really good up to this point,” said Gina Loehns of Trinidad Benham Corp. ”But last week’s turn of weather has us concerned about the remaining crop coming in.”

The low temperature in Twin Falls, near where the bean packaging and distribution company is located in the Magic Valley of southcentral Idaho, reached 22 degrees on Oct. 3, 20 degrees colder than normal.

“The quality from here to the finish line is going to be reduced,” Loehns said. “How much depends on the rain and cold.”

Twin Falls farmer Bill Bitzenburg is usually done with his bean harvest at this time but he’s only about halfway through with his 2017 crop, which he’s having a hard time getting in because of rainstorms.

He’s also concerned about how his beans still out in the field will fare.

“When it gets into October, your chance of damage from frost or rain just increases,” he said. “I’m giving our stuff a 50-50 chance.”

Doug Huettig, who farms near Hazelton in the Magic Valley, has harvested about three-fourths of his bean crop but he’s usually completely done with his beans by October.

“I should have been done by now,” he said. “Our beans are ready to harvest. It’s just been the weather that’s holding us up.”

But like other dry bean farmers and dealers in Idaho, Huettig said the crop that has come in looks good and has yielded well.

“Our crop looks pretty good (and) I’ve had good yields,” he said. “Everything has been fine so far.”

“This year, everybody got fantastic yields,” Bitzenburg said. “There are some really good beans that have been harvested.”

John Dean, president of Idaho Seed Bean Co. in Twin Falls, said about 20 percent of his crop is still in the field.

“For the crop I’ve gotten in, the yields have been good and quality looks good,” he said.

In the state’s other bean-growing region, in the Treasure Valley of southwestern Idaho, the bean crop is 60-70 percent picked up and most of the rest of it is in windrows and ready to be picked up, said Don Tolmie, production manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co. in Homedale.

He said bean harvest in that region is about a week behind normal due to a wet, cool spring that delayed planting. Bean harvest in the Treasure Valley is typically wrapped up by the middle of October.

“I don’t think we’re going to make that this year,” Tolmie said. “Depending on the maturity of the beans, there could be some real problems if we get a frost.”



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