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Pulse crop production increases in Idaho, Washington

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Led by a large increase in green pea production in Idaho and Washington, total pulse crop production in the Pacific Northwet increased significantly in 2013. Contract prices offered by regional processors for green peas reached near-record levels earlier in the season.

Production of dry peas, lentils and chickpeas in the Pacific Northwest increased significantly this year, led by green pea production, which was dramatically higher.

Idaho farmers produced 106 million pounds of green peas in 2013, more than triple the 32 million pounds they produced in 2012, and Washington farmers produced 205 million pounds, compared to 121 million pounds the previous year.

“We had pretty good green pea production this year in the Pacific Northwest compared to a year ago,” said Tim McGreevy, CEO of the U.S. Dry Pea & Lentil Council.

Timely moisture in north Idaho helped the state’s green pea fields significantly, said Dirk Hammond, administrative services manager for George F. Brocke and Sons, a processor of peas, lentils and chickpeas in Kendrick, Idaho.

“We had two to three inches of rain (in late June), just as a lot of peas were starting to bloom,” he said. “That rain … hit them at just the right time. Lots and lots of pods filled completely.”

Hammond said green pea yields were about 25 percent higher per acre on average compared with the last few seasons and quality was average to above average.

Heading into the spring growing season, there was concern that many of the region’s farmers were going to plant more grains and there would be a significant decrease in pulse acres, Hammond said.

“But processors in the northwest as a whole came out with some pretty good contracts for peas, lentils and garbanzo beans,” he said. “That spurred acres more than anything. Producers responded and we had lots of good production.”

Green pea prices reached near-level records earlier in the year, McGreevy said.

Chickpea production in Idaho, at 94 million pounds, was down slightly from 104 million pounds the previous year, but Washington farmers produced 153 million pounds, up significantly from 124 million pounds in 2012.

Chickpea acres in Idaho and Washington have risen rapidly in the past several years, as demand has risen.

“Chickpeas are a huge success story … in the Pacific Northwest,” said McGreevy, who is also executive director of the Idaho Pea and Lentil Council. “Demand keeps increasing for this crop.”

Chickpea production gains in the Pacific Northwest have come at the expense of lentil production, which was down again in Idaho (from 33 million pounds in 2012 to 28 million pounds in 2013) and Washington (from 77 million pounds in 2012 to 73 million pounds this year).

“A lot of the increase in chickpea acres has been at the expense of lentil acres,” Hammond said.

Overall, pulse crop production in Idaho totaled 246 million pounds in 2013, up from 178 million pounds in 2012. In Washington, pulse crop production totaled 439 million pounds, up rom 331 million the previous year.



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