SE Montana bean crop escaped May hail damage

2014-07-01T00:00:00Z 2014-07-11T15:36:05Z SE Montana bean crop escaped May hail damageBy TOM HOWARD thoward@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

It didn’t take insurance adjusters long to tally millions of dollars in hail damage to roofs, siding, windows and automobiles in the Billings area after the May 18 hail storm.

Assessing hail damage to area crops has taken a little longer to quantify. Sugar beets, wheat and corn suffered when hail the size of golf balls pounded southeastern Montana. While crops suffered setbacks, some of the acreage didn’t require replanting. Agriculture experts estimated that the storm damaged about 3,000 acres of sugar beets, or some 12 percent of the acreage destined for the Billings sugar plant, between Billings and Hardin.

But in farming, timing can spell the difference between success and disaster, especially where weather is concerned.

Bean farmers in southeastern Montana dodged a bullet, and millions of hailstones, during the May storm.

“The good news was that the bean crop hadn’t come up yet,” said Thor Lindshield, crop adviser for Yellowstone Bean Co., which operates bean elevators in Bridger and Terry, as well as a plant in Manderson, Wyo. Yellowstone Bean Co. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Russell E. Womack Inc., a food processor based in Lubbock, Texas. The Bridger plant employs 11 people.

Lindshield said Yellowstone Bean Co. prides itself in providing a premium product.

“The bright white color of our pinto beans is what people like to see on the shelf,” he said.

According to the United States Dry Bean Council, each American eats about 7.5 pounds of beans per year. Pinto beans, which are used frequently in Mexican food, are the most popular variety, followed by navy beans and great northerns.

Increasingly, nutritionists are promoting beans as a health food. The bean council reports that a diet rich in beans helps people control their blood pressure.

Much of Yellowstone Bean Co.’s production ends up being sold at the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, under the Casserole brand.

Pinto beans aren’t the only legume being raised in Montana. Three years ago, farmers began shipping black beans to Yellowstone Bean Co.’s Terry facility. In recent years Montana farmers have been planting more lentils as a cash crop and to build soil fertility without artificial fertilizer.

Any farmer worth his salt plans out his crops based on what will make the most money.

The drought that gripped the Midwest in 2012 sent corn prices soaring. But more favorable weather and a better crop in 2013 caused corn prices to tumble by 33 percent over the past 12 months.

“When corn prices go down, you see more beans going in. The price of corn is often a deciding factor in how many acres (of beans) are planted,” Lindshield said.

Beans also play an essential role in crop rotation. Because they are legumes, they fix nitrogen into the soil, reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizer to grow other cops like corn and barley.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More from the Gazette

Absarokee-based bank appoints new president

Absarokee-based bank appoints new president

January 27, 2015 7:30 pm Related Loading…
Highlands mine could mean primary, secondary jobs for Butte

Highlands mine could mean primary, secondary jobs for Butte

January 25, 2015 12:00 pm Photos

Photos

Loading…
Bakken wives worry over job losses

Bakken wives worry over job losses

January 25, 2015 10:58 am Photos

Photos

Loading…
Dickinson refinery costing more than expected due to delays

Dickinson refinery costing more than expected due to delays

January 20, 2015 11:00 am Photos

Photos

Loading…
Freight booming at Billings airport

Freight booming at Billings airport

January 16, 2015 4:42 pmLoading…

Williston to shut down man camps for new fire sprinkler systems

January 15, 2015 9:40 amLoading…

Company owner dies at Bakken oil well site

January 15, 2015 9:26 amLoading…
1 dead, 1 injured in Bakken oilfield accident

1 dead, 1 injured in Bakken oilfield accident

January 14, 2015 4:58 pmLoading…
Noodles & Company opening in Bozeman, Missoula

Noodles & Company opening in Bozeman, Missoula

January 11, 2015 3:30 pmLoading…
Senate panel approves Keystone bill despite veto threat

Senate panel approves Keystone bill despite veto threat

January 08, 2015 11:17 amLoading…
‘Do not rent’: Bakken hotels try to curb human trafficking

‘Do not rent’: Bakken hotels try to curb human trafficking

January 04, 2015 2:19 pm Photos

Photos

Loading…
Business, labor groups preparing for legislative session

Business, labor groups preparing for legislative session

January 04, 2015 6:00 am Photos

Photos

Loading…
Car wash eying MetraPark-area expansion

Car wash eying MetraPark-area expansion

December 29, 2014 6:40 pmLoading…
Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses