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Chickpea, Lentil, Dry Pea Acres Soar in Idaho

by Sean Ellis
Capital Press, May 31, 2012

Chickpea acres highest ever; prices strong

With more favorable spring weather this year, total pea and lentil acreage in Idaho is up significantly compared to 2011.

But both crops are well below their historical averages, as Gem State growers have planted a record number of chickpea acres.

Idaho Pea and Lentil Commission Administrator Tim McGreevy said chickpea prices have remained strong the past two years and growers will plant 65,000 acres this year, a 55 percent increase over last year and the most ever planted in Idaho, surpassing the 52,000 acres planted in 2010.

"It's a record year for chickpea planting, both large and small," said McGreevy, CEO of the U.S. Dry Pea and Lentil Council. "Chickpeas are taking (acreage from) both lentils and peas this year, just because the price signals for chickpeas are strong."

McGreevy said price signals for dry peas and lentils are also strong and the total acres for both those crops are well above last year. He estimates Idaho farmers will plant 32,000 acres of dry peas in 2012, 60 percent more than last year's total of 20,000 acres. But that's still well below the five-year average of 45,000 acres for the crop.

Idaho growers are expected to plant 33,000 acres of lentils this year, 22 percent more than last year's 27,000-acre total but below the crop's five-year average of 48,000.

Acreage for both crops plummeted last year as an abnormally wet and cold spring prevented a lot of north Idaho farmers from getting their crop in the ground. Many farmers had to turn to prevented planting provisions in their insurance policies that reimburse them when weather prevents expected plantings.

"Last year's low acreage was weather-related," said north Idaho farmer Robert Blair, who planted 500 acres of peas and lentils this year near Kendrick. "Compared to last year, I planted a hell of a lot more, considering I didn't get anything planted last year."

Blair said this year's spring started out like last year's and farmers in north Idaho, where the vast majority of the state's pea, lentil and chickpeas are grown, were fearing a repeat of 2011.

"We have had a wet spring this year also in the north part of the state ... but we had a good string of nice weather," McGreevy said. "We'll take it. This is OK." Troy area farmer Pat Smith said pea and lentil farmers normally like to get their crop in the ground right after Easter and are about two weeks behind schedule this year.

"This year we were a couple weeks late but not nearly as late as last year," he said.

Related Pages:
Container Shortage Crimps Exports by Dave Wilkins, Capital Press, 5/16/8

Sean Ellis
Chickpea, Lentil, Dry Pea Acres Soar in Idaho
Capital Press, May 31, 2012

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