Pulse Crop Processing and Facilities in Montana
Over the past decade, pulse crop farming has steadily increased across the U.S. As an agricultural state, Montana is seeing that same dramatic increase and reaping the benefits.
The benefits of Pulse Crops
Pulses are the edible seeds within the legume family, the most popular being dried beans, lentils, chickpeas and dry peas. They’re healthy to eat (an important staple in the diets of European, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and South Asian cultures), healthy for the soil and have a host of economic benefits for farmers and processors alike.
Pulse crops have been referred to as “little nutrition nuggets” because they are nutrient-dense superfoods, chalk full of vitamins and minerals. Moreover, they are great sources of both fiber and protein, are low in fat and incredibly versatile to cook with (check out these pulse crop recipes for inspiration).
But, almost more importantly, pulse crops are a sustainable crop. Pulses have the unique ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and restoring the soil after nutrient-depleting crops like wheat (crops including wheat and barley produce higher yields if they’re rotated with pulses). They also don’t require much water to farm, can withstand both hotter temperatures and frosts and are known to increase biodiversity.
Lastly, pulses are becoming an economically-sound crop and are a great replacement for fallow (idle) cropland. Pulse crops prices have held steady, and are currently more lucrative than wheat. In fact, Montana farmers who export pulse crops have seen a rise in revenue generation.
Pulse Crops and Montana
Montana is a leader, nationally and internationally, in the production of pulse crops (ranked first in the production of lentils, second in the production of peas and third in the production of chickpeas in the U.S.). According to the Associated Press, “Acreage of pulse crops harvested in Montana has nearly tripled since the start of the decade” and, in 2017, Montana cemented the spot as the number one producer of pulses in the nation.
The Montana Agriculture Development and Marketing Bureau expects that the total acreage of chickpeas, dry peas and lentils will reach nearly 1.5 million by 2019.
That’s because farmers across the state have flocked to pulse crops for the aforementioned economic and environmental benefits. Pulse crop production is concentrated in the northeastern counties of the state (although most counties do have some pulse crop generation). The Montana Department of Agriculture reported that in 2010, the replacement of 360,000 fallow acres with pulse crops in the Northeast was worth $100 million to the economy.
The production of these crops have led to an increase of crop processing plants within the state, including Colombia Grain, which will open the doors to its plant in northeast Montana in July 2018 — in time for this year’s harvest. But there’s always room for more.
In 2017, Governor Steve Bullock along with the director of the Montana Department of Agriculture realized not only the importance of increasing pulse crop acreage, but of incentivizing pulse-processing efforts. And are currently putting incentives into place.
Montana’s economy, and farmers, have much to gain as pulse production continues to increase.