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VIDEO: South Dakota Pulse Processors to start processing crops by 2016 harvest

HARROLD, S.D. — South Dakota Pulse Processors LLC is ontrack to start processing both yellow peas and red lentils by this year’s harvest.

“Our name says it — we are a pulse company,” says Steven L. Brown, the company’s CEO, adding the company included the red lentils to their initial focus, beyond the earlier-announced focus only on yellow peas.

The $5.1 million venture involves about $3.41 million by 80 shareholders, including some farmers. Brown expects the plant to be profitable “immediately.”

SDPP company will start with 11 employees on one shift and increase to about 20 in a town of about 125 people, 35 miles east of Pierre.

Red lentils added

Yellow peas are still the big crop going through the plant. “We always envisioned we would add others as the acres developed and it’s become apparent that the lentil acres have already commercially developed so they’ll be a minor crop for us, but we’ll also anticipate handling lentils” from the start, Brown says.

He confirms construction began in September in Harrold, S.D. Construction has been a bit slower than initially scheduled, but the plant “looks to be bigger and better than anticipated,” he says.

The company has brought in water and electrical utilities, and has poured and set the outside truck scale. He says the primary “red steel” frame is up, with all of the footings, for the 30-foot-tall, 12,000-square-foot building completed.

“Presently, we’re putting on steel siding and steel roof with insulation,” Brown says. “That should be done in February.”

The company is completing the specifications for the railroad switches. Once the requirements are clarified, it should take only about a month to finish.

Processing equipment has been ordered and will arrive in early May, with plans to be operational by July 1, Brown says. Harvest for the new field pea and lentil crop should start in July and August.

The company will process yellow field peas, but will be capable of doing multiple types of pulses, including the red lentils.

“We’ll do the yellow peas both whole and split, and we’ll be able to do the lentils whole, split and decorticated,” which means the skin is removed, but two seed halves are left together in a form that is nicknamed “football,” because of its appearance.

The company will operate with five hopper tanks for incoming storage. “Most of it is stored on the farm and delivered to the site on a continuous basis throughout the year,” he says.

The product will come in from about 150 miles. “That will start July 1,” Brown says.

Eyeing pulses

With prices for corn and other crops in the doldrums, farmers in the region are exploring pulse crops.

On Jan. 14, more than 100 growers attended a South Dakota Pulse Growers event in Pierre, S.D., co-hosted by the the South Dakota State University Extension Service. The event focused on the agronomics and led new producers to SDSU’s online production aid tools.

Ruth Beck, executive secretary of the South Dakota Pulse Growers Inc. and an extension agronomy field specialist with the South Dakota State University Extension Pierre Regional Center, says the state pulse growers organization has only about 20 to 25 members, so an attendance five times that indicates that farmers are looking for something profitable to grow in 2016, especially compared with corn.

She says the SDPP development is good because it offers a local marketing opportunity. “It’s easier to market when you have someone local,” she says. “A lot of our peas in the past were sold into North Dakota, because that’s where a lot of the processors are,” she says, adding that one Huron, S.D., company had been using yellow peas for making dog food.

There could be an increase in acres in 2016, up from about 28,000 acres of pulses grown in the state in 2015 — peas, lentils and chickpeas (garbanzo) beans. Yellow pea projections have been looking “fairly favorable,” she says, but the lentils tend to be a “nonelastic” crop, meaning that if the acres yield well it can negatively affect price.