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Harvesting of Michigan’s dry beans slowed by rain
Michigan Correspondent

SHERIDAN, Mich. — Michigan’s dry bean growers need some drier weather to harvest the rest of their crop.

With rain predicted throughout much of the state this week, the outlook for getting the beans out of the fields isn’t looking good.

“If it doesn’t quit raining, it will be a disaster,” said Eric DuBay, manager of West Michigan Bean Co. in Sheridan. “There are hundreds and hundreds of acres out there to be harvested.”

DuBay estimated that West Michigan growers have had “about one day a week for the last six weeks” that was suitable for harvesting dry beans.

“The quality is going downhill every day,” DuBay said. “We were looking at record yields earlier this season - to the point that I went out and rented another storage.”

Greg Varner, research director with the Michigan Dry Bean Board, said statewide about 20 percent of the crop remains to be harvested.

“In some areas they’re 95-100 percent done, but there are pockets where there are still 30-40 percent of the beans standing in the fields,” he said.

Varner said the bean quality and yield potential deteriorates every day they remain in the fields.

“Either the beans have sprouted in the pods or the pods are opening up and have fallen off the plant,” he said.

DuBay agreed that quality is becoming an issue.

“I’m still optimistic,” DuBay said, “But we’re seeing deterioration in color and sprouting is occurring. There’s really a lot of sprouting going on.

“I’m taking in beans, but I’m telling my guys that I don’t know if we can make grade,” he said.

Most of Michigan’s cranberry beans have been harvested, but many kidneys, blacks and other varieties remain in the fields.

“Blacks and navy beans seem to still be holding their quality,” Varner said.

However, he said more rain and adverse harvest conditions will eventually impact the overall market.

“In Ontario, Canada, they have had problems with light reds, kidneys and cranberry beans that are similar to the problems as in Michigan with the weather,” Varner said.

“At one time people were trying to find colored beans to cover contracts,” he said.

Varner said the market is reacting to the situation with kidney and cranberry beans seeing the most impact.

“With light reds and dark reds the outside market is over $30 – they’re high,” he said.

As for farmers with crop insurance, Varner said each individual farmer would have to decide when it’s not worth harvesting their crop.

“I personally don’t think we’re at that point yet,” he said. “But every day it stays wet, we’re getting one more day closer to that decision.” DuBay said this could be the worst year for dry bean growers since the flood of 1986.

At that time parts of the state got up to 11 inches of rain in early September and a week later temperatures soared to 80 degrees. The combination caused a tremendous decline in the quality of beans that were awaiting harvest.

“I hate to be doom and gloom,” DuBay said.

But, with about 22 percent of his growers’ beans still in the field and rain forecasted through the end of the week, he’s concerned.

“They’ll go until they can’t get them or until I tell them I can’t market them,” DuBay said.

Dry bean production occurs in 14 states and Michigan is ranked No. 2 behind North Dakota. In 2004, Michigan was ranked No. 1 for its production of black beans, cranberry beans, light red kidney beans, navy beans and small red beans, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

This Michigan farm news was published in the Oct. 25, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.