FARGO – Even as American demand for dry beans is high, the production could be regulated by an increasingly apparent shortage of seed – both because of freeze damage in key seed production areas of Wyoming and because of untimely wet conditions and heat in Idaho.

The Northarvest Bean Growers Association says bean growers in the region are seeing a shortage of black turtle bean seed.

David Scholand, a regional representative for Treasure Valley Seed, a company with seed operations based near Boise, Idaho, and in northeast Wyoming near Cody, says he’s seeing seed production issues all over the country.

“North Dakota certified seed and seed production had a lot of disease in it this year,” Scholand says. “Michigan had the same problem with their certified seed program with all the disease, bacteria, blight” and associated problems.

A freeze in Wyoming shut down about 80 percent of the black bean seed from that state, the Northarvest website says, quoting Lynn Preator, president of Preator Bean Co. in Burlington, Wyo.

Temperatures fell to 22 degrees Fahrenheit for six hours on Sept. 11, damaging 60 percent of Wyoming’s 2014 seed crop and perhaps 100 percent of the black bean seed, the website reports.

Scholand says other bean classes will be affected, too.

“We haven’t seen it in the pinto beans yet, but I have to believe the same issues are in the pinto beans. We just haven’t seen it because of the lack of demand for seed.”

Tim Courneya, executive vice president of Northarvest Bean, says the Wyoming freeze was noted for its effect on peas and lentils, but the impact on bean seed is going to be significant.

“Certain varieties in these classes are going to be affected by it,” he says, adding it isn’t clear how much of the western-grown seed comes from Wyoming.

Courneya says farmers looking for alternative crops to corn and soybeans in times of low commodity prices naturally will look to dry edible beans as an alternative.

“Right now, it looks like seed will regulate what gets planted,” he says.

The Furmano’s brand of tomato and bean products based in Pennsylvania issued a commentary on the bean market on its company website. Temperatures of 20 degrees below zero in the Minnesota and Dakotas can force processors to stop handling beans because seed coats crack in very low temperatures, the Furmano’s site says. Processors and suppliers will look for ways to encourage farmers to plant bean crops needed for 2015, Furmano’s says. The biggest challenge will be in securing dark kidney bean production.

“There are some signs of uneasiness in the dry bean industry at this time,” Furmano’s says. “While some bean classes are experiencing fairly soft markets, including great northern beans, navy beans and pinto beans, most bean types are in limited supply.”

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