By paul kanning
Vice Chair
Montana Pulse Crop
Committee:

It has been a remarkable time for pulse crops in Montana. 2017 brought another expansion of pulse acres in our state, with an incredible 1.5 million acres seeded. It also brought a drought which quickly expanded into every county, leading to approximately 200,000 pulse acres left unharvested. Finally, we saw India impose a 50% tariff on all pea imports in November, followed by a 30% tariff on lentil and chickpea imports to close out the year.

The tariffs by India certainly led to volatility for our markets. As the world’s top importer, India’s pulse production and consumption are the dominant market forces. Poor Indian harvests in 2014 and 2015 led to a supply shortage and a spike in market prices. This was followed by record Indian harvests in 2016 and 2017, a surplus of commodities, and the Indian government’s effort to curb the import of pulses.

While the market continues to adjust to the current tariffs, Montana farmers are busy modifying their crop rotation plans for 2018 and beyond. In addition to the market outlook, there are also new proposed rotational restrictions from the USDA Risk Management Agency which must be considered beginning with the 2019 crop year.

Currently there is a three year rotation for dry peas following peas, or lentils following lentils. However, the current rules also allow a farm to wait only two years between dry peas and lentils. For example a farm may grow peas, then wheat, then lentils, then wheat, then peas. The prior surge in market prices led to farmers tightening their rotations in order to increase pulse acres. In turn, this led to an increased risk of pulse crop diseases. In order to abate this risk, plant pathologists from Montana State University and North Dakota State University recommended the three year rotation restriction also apply when lentils follow dry peas or when dry peas follow lentils. The Northern Pulse Growers Association concurred with this recommendation.

Therefore, beginning in 2019, RMA is proposing a 3-year rotation that requires a farm to be out of both dry peas and lentils for at least two consecutive years before seeding them again. For example, a farm could grow peas, then wheat for two years, then lentils. Crop insurance will not attach to any farm which fails to meet this rotational restriction.RMA’s comment period is currently underway until May 1, 2018 for this proposed rotation statement.

Comments can be sent by email to RSOMT@rma.usda.gov.