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Published February 01, 2011, 09:29 AM

Revenue insurance coming for beans?

FARGO, N.D. — Dry edible bean growers are striving to get revenue-based crop insurance so they can stay on an equal footing with other crops that already have it.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Dry edible bean growers are striving to get revenue-based crop insurance so they can stay on an equal footing with other crops that already have it.

Don Streifel of Washburn, N.D., president of the Northarvest Bean Growers Association since last July and a former part-time crop insurance agent and full time farmer, says the revenue crop insurance issue has been a four-year project for bean growers. He says a pilot project for certain counties was announced last July. If it is approved by the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. board in July, the pilot program could be in place for 2012.

Insurance under the pilot program would be for four main types. The proposed coverage for pinto beans would cover almost all of North Dakota. Navy bean coverage would be for most counties in the state. Dark red kidney bean coverage in the pilot program would be four or five Minnesota counties. There also would be a policy for black beans.

Then-Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., did the spade work on the pilot program in the 2008 farm bill, when he included a provision that allows producer groups to request insurance that they don’t yet have. The bean group hired Watts and Associates of Billings, Mont., to make its proposal.

Streifel farms with his son-in-law, Jeff Kulzer. He’s raised edible beans since 1981, primarily pinto beans. He also raises irrigated and nonirrigated corn, wheat, some peas and confection sunflowers.

Establishing risk protection

Streifel makes clear that the goal is not to try to increase dry bean acres with an insurance improvement.

“Goodness, we’ve got enough already,” he says of the acres. “But we’re trying to get risk protection that these younger people need. When you go to the lenders, they see the dollars you have covered by raising corn and soybeans. Dry bean growers have nothing but yield protection.We think we’re going to need (revenue insurance) down the road just to maintain acres.” Streifel says 2010 was a dicey year to be in the bean business.

There was a 23 percent increase in production nationwide. Add to that a 54 percent reduction in exports to Mexico, and there is an oversupply of beans.

“We’ve got a huge carryover in pinto beans; other classes are pretty good,” he says.

Many producers were caught with beans that darkened, often because of moisture issues. Plant breeders were talking about developing potentially for lighter-colored beans. The association also is increasing its investment in promotion.

Streifel says older producers have experienced these kinds of inventory problems before. He says it was a bigger problem when edible beans were the highest-income-producing crop farmers could grow in some areas.

“Now it’s easy to switch to corn, soybeans or sunflower because the price is really pretty good,” he says. “I think the growers will correct the issue by themselves.”

Bean acreage is moving around. Ramsey County in North Dakota now is ranked fourth or fifth among North Dakota’s counties in edible bean production. Production has moved farther north in the Red River Valley, and more to as corn and soybeans have displaced it.