May 22, President’s Blog: Pulse crops – the kind of diversity farmers need to compete in today’s market

It’s no secret wheat prices are down and the dip in prices is affecting farmer’s livelihoods.  The signing of two recent bills by Governor Bullock regarding pulse crops reinforces the value of diversifying one’s operation through planting crops like lentils and peas. HB 614 exempts new pulse-processing equipment from property taxation, and SB 285 establishes the Montana Pulse Crop Committee which will replace the current Montana Pulse Advisory Committee. According to the governor the new pulse committee will offer increased structure to the state’s pulse checkoff program and will control the allocation of assessment funds. These funds are used for market and research. MFU supported the passage of both bills in this past session.

On my farm we grow peas and lentils and have found success in doing so. I know many of my neighbors are growing pulses as well. Pulses are harvested for the dry seed. Dried beans, chickpeas, lentils and peas are the most common pulse crops. Their nutrition value and positive affect on soil health can’t be overstated. And as I mentioned the additional revenue for farmers offers a market advantage.

According to the Montana Department of Agriculture in 2015 over 800,000 acres of pulse crops were planted and harvested, making Montana the #1 pulse crop producer in the U.S. Much of Montana’s pulse production occurs in the north east, however farmers across the state are giving it go.


Diversifying farm practices is the way to survive the instability of the market. I encourage producers who are not currently growing pulses to find out more information about the process. There are a variety of resources available on the pulse crop industry. Feel free to contact our office for information, or visit The Montana Department of Agriculture’s website at

-Alan Merrill