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Pea, Lentil Acres Slashed

by Sean Ellis
Capital Press, January 12, 2012

Ideal weather for late crops produces high yields

Dry edible pea and lentil acres in Idaho were down substantially from last year, victims of a late spring and competition from higher-priced commodities.

"We had a very, very late spring and farmers had a really tough time getting their crop in," said Tim McGreevy, administrator of the Idaho and Washington pea and lentil commissions and CEO of the U.S. Dry Pea and Lentil Council.

Because of an abnormally high amount of rainfall this spring, many farmers ended up using prevented planting provisions in their insurance policies that reimburse them when weather prevents expected plantings.

Even those who did plant the crops got them in the ground up to a month later than normal.

The late spring "definitely set us back," said farmer Pat Smith, who grows both crops in the Troy area. "There were some acres we just couldn't plant."

Competition from higher-priced commodities such as wheat and barley was one of the factors that resulted in reduced acres, but the adverse spring weather was the biggest factor, McGreevy said.

Dry edible pea acres in Idaho fell 50 percent, from 30,000 harvested acres in 2010 to 15,000 acres this year, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Lentil acres also fell by half, to 27,000 acres.

While the season started late, ideal weather the rest of the way resulted in a quality crop that produced high yields, McGreevy said.

When higher-than-normal yields are factored in, total dry edible pea production in Idaho is estimated at 270,000 hundredweight, a 44 percent decline from 2010. Lentil production is estimated at 351,000 hundredweight, a 32 percent drop from 2010.

More than 90 percent of the nation's dry edible peas and lentils are grown in Idaho, Washington, Montana and North Dakota. While Washington held its acreage counts, the other states saw drastic declines from 2010.

As a result, total dry edible pea production in the United States is expected to be down 62 percent from 2010, and lentil production is forecast to be 46 percent less.

However, the reduced production has resulted in higher prices.

While dry edible peas were selling for 11-13 cents a pound a year ago this time, they are going for 15-18 cents a pound now. And lentil prices have increased from 28-32 cents a pound to 33-38 cents a pound.

McGreevy expects the higher prices will result in a marked increase in pea and lentil acres next year, but whether that occurs also depends on how other competing commodities fare.

"We're clearly expecting a rebound in overall acreage next spring (but) it's all about relative value," he said. "It has to be competitive with what you can get for wheat and barley and (other crops)."

Sean Ellis
Pea, Lentil Acres Slashed
Capital Press, January 12, 2012

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