Dry bean prices surge

Sean Ellis/Capital Press Light red kidney beans are harvested outside Parma, Idaho, Aug. 29.

Demand remains strong as national acreage declines

By SEAN ELLIS

Capital Press

Dry bean acreage in Idaho is down substantially this year, but those farmers who stuck with the crop are being rewarded with good prices.

"If you have anything on the open market, prices are good for you," Caldwell area farmer Leonard Andrew said. "And projections for contracts for the (2011) crop look good also."

Idaho farmers planted 85,000 acres of dry edible beans in 2011, which is 50,000 fewer acres than 2010, a 42 percent decline. Nationally, dry bean acres are down 36 percent from last year, according to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

With yields in Idaho expected to average 1,750 pounds per acre, 150 pounds less than last year, total production is forecast at 1.47 million hundredweight, down from 2.55 million in 2010.

Total national bean production is expected to total 20.5 million hundredweight, a 36 percent drop from last year.

The reduced acreage and a depressed 2010 world crop have combined to push prices up significantly.

Idaho's dry bean harvest just got started last week and will continue for about six more weeks. Early indications point to a quality crop, with good prices.

Andrew, who grows about 200 acres of beans, was one of the farmers who stuck with the crop and he is reaping the rewards. His acreage is down a bit, but that's due to his normal crop rotation.

"The crop looks good," said Andrew, a member of the Idaho Bean Commission. "We're going to do all right."

Idaho and U.S. farmers planted a near record number of dry bean acres in 2010, which resulted in low prices, says Don Tolmie, production manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co. in Homedale.

As a result, prices for pintos, the engine that drives bean prices, hovered just over $20 per hundredweight last year. However, much lower world production and a much smaller U.S. crop this year have combined to send open market prices above $40.

This year's reduced bean acreage was mostly a result of farmers turning to other crops such as wheat, potatoes and corn, in hopes of making more money, Andrew said.

"With corn and wheat being so high, people have been planting other commodities, he said. "In this area, wheat really took a bite out of (bean acres)."

Chickpea acreage in Idaho decreased 21 percent this year to 42,000 planted acres, pinto acreage declined 60 percent to 16,500 acres, small red acreage fell 14 percent to 7,800 acres and pink acreage decreased 31 percent to 6,800 acres.

Navy bean acreage decreased 31 percent to 3,700 acres, acreage planted to great northerns fell 33 percent to 2,600 acres, and black bean acres are down 58 percent to 2,200 acres.

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