The USDA’s latest planted area figures are 16% greater than what dealers reported at the U.S. Dry Bean Convention. The biggest discrepancies lie with garbanzos, pintos, blacks and navies.

By Dario Bard

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According to the August 12 USDA Crop Report, 1.43 million acres of dry beans were planted in the U.S. this campaign, down from 1.74 million acres in 2012. But others say this year’s drop in bean acreage is even greater. At the U.S. Dry Bean Convention held in Chicago a few weeks ago, six bean dealer associations presented their estimates and arrived at a planted area figure of just over 1.2 million acres.

As can be seen from the chart below, a large part of the discrepancy between these two estimates lies with four bean classes: garbanzos, pintos, blacks and navies


Dealers Vs. USDA Estimates By Bean Class


Dealer Acreage

USDA Acreage

Pinto 482,790 534,600
Pink 21,592 19,300
Small Red 26,055 25,300
Small White 530 * Reference  Footnote
Navy 189,711 197,700
Great Northern 79,254 76,300
Black 147,490 167,000
Cranberry 8,881 4,100
Light Red Kidney 38,272 40,900
Dark Red Kidney 49,631 49,000
Large Lima 6,685 6,700
Baby Lima 7,005 6,800
Black-Eye 25,656 33,500
Garbanzo 99,738 215,900
Other 28,301 55,500
U.S. Totals 1,211,591 1,432,600
* Data included in “Other” class to avoid disclosing data for individual operations.

IFT interviewed the six dealer association representatives who presented at the U.S. Dry Bean Convention to get their views on the acreage numbers and what they mean for the 2013 campaign. A region-by-region rundown follows.


The North Central Region

Darryl Berg of the Walhalla Bean Company represented the North Central Bean Dealers Association, which covers the states of Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, an area that accounts for more than a third of total U.S. dry bean production. The main bean classes produced in this region are pinto, navy, black and kidney beans.

“Our acreage is down for all pulses,” says Berg. “I don’t think the USDA numbers account for preventive planting acreage. There were some intended plantings that didn’t get seeded because of the rains we received. We added that in and that’s why we have such a significant drop. It’s just our best guess because we know there is acreage that got pp-ed. I got new crop contracts, for example, and some of my guys didn’t even get an acre in the ground.”

And of the crop that did get planted, says Berg, 50% was planted late. “That means half the crop is at higher risk of frost come fall because it was seeded after June 10th; historically, we are usually about ten days earlier than that.”

Although Berg says the region received “good heat” in the months of June and July, August has kicked off with temperatures around 60˚ F. Frost typically hits around September 21st.

“If we do have some type of freeze in September, we are going to have some damage. The question is how severe and how much. If we get into October frost-free, which has happened in the past, maybe we’ll be spared the consequences. But with 50% of the crop seeded after June 10th, we are pushing the envelope.”

Berg reports that some fields are so wet they are still being weeded in August.

“In terms of production,” he says, “we expect to be down 35% on pintos and close to 55% on blacks.” Based on the five year average, Berg is estimating yields of 1,500 pounds per acre for pintos. That’s the number to watch, he says, because, “This crop is at risk and if we go a couple of bags one way or the other, you multiply that by the acreage and we’re talking about a half million bags of pinto production.”

The yields are more likely to be lower than higher, he says, because the late plantings make a repeat of last year’s bumper crop difficult.

“Last year was perfect and we pulled 17 bags per acre. We had the perfect spring and fall, and no disease. This year, we have disease issues showing up, plus we’re late, so hitting 15 bags is going to be tough, even without the frost.”

In terms of overall supply, Berg says it’s going to be tight. Carryover numbers for the region won’t become available until September.

The possibility of a bean shortage has growers dreaming of sky-high prices. “I heard talk of prices going to US$ 50 a bag. When I hear that, I tell growers to think back to two years ago. We had a similar situation with big acreage drops and limited supplies. Plus, Mexico had the worst drought in 50 years and took 2 million bags. Prices shot up to US$ 48 at the grower level. We basically got so high we priced ourselves out of the market. Chicken was cheaper. Restaurant chains in California were serving half a scoop of beans instead of the full scoop. So at some point, we will price ourselves out to a certain degree, and that happened two years ago.”

Berg believes prices should stay around US$ 40 per bag. “Dealers are paying that much for a hundred pounds of pintos now. We’ve gone that high only three times in the past 30 some years. Growers gained US$ 7 per bag just in the month of May. Prices are already up.”

Data Presented by Darryl Berg at U.S. Dry Bean Convention



Yield (clean wt)

Production (cwt)

Pinto 279,350 15.0 4,190,250
Pink 12,000 14.5 174,000
Small Red 2,500 16.0 40,000
Navy 125,000 16.0 2,000,000
Great Northern 6,000 16.0 96,000
Black 60,000 14.5 870,000
Cranberry 1,800 16.0 28,800
Light Red Kidney 15,000 18.0 270,000
Dark Red Kidney 42,000 18.0 756,000
Garbanzo 10,000 15.0 150,000
Other 3,000 18.0 54,000
North Central Region Totals 556,650   8,629,050

The Rocky Mountain Region

Todd Curtiss of the Yellowstone Bean Company represented the Rocky Mountain Bean Dealers Association, which covers the states of Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. The Rocky Mountain Region is the U.S.’s largest pinto and Great Northern bean producing area.

“In terms of overall acres, we are actually up slightly for the whole region. Most of it is in Great Northerns. Pintos are up slightly, too, but this is mostly due to seed acres, not commercial acres.” According to Curtiss, the crop looks good, with above average yields expected in some areas.

“Those are likely to be evened out, though, by areas that are short on water,” Curtiss explains. “We had a mild winter last year. Bean fields in the Rocky Mountain Region are irrigated and rely on snowpack and reservoir levels for their water supply. It was dry in spring right up until planting. And then, like the rest of the country, we got too much precipitation and bean planting was set back about a week to ten days. We caught up a bit throughout the year; I’d say on average we are about a week behind. In some places, maybe just five days.”

Despite the rain delays in some areas, other areas like western Nebraska and Wyoming may not have sufficient water throughout the growing season. Additionally, in early August some areas were hit by hail, including parts of Wyoming and Nebraska.

“We are getting hail with a bit more frequency than normal,” says Curtiss. “It looked like we were going to have a pretty decent crop, a little above average, but then early August hail set us back and we got some possible water issues. I think now we are looking at an average year.”

The market, however, is driven by North Dakota and bean shortages there will keep prices high. “They are fairly strong now and I expect they’ll remain that way for another year,” Curtiss says.

Data Presented by Todd Curtiss at U.S. Dry Bean Convention



Yield (clean wt)

Production (cwt)

Carryover (cwt)

Total Supply












Great Northerns












Light Red kidney






Black-eye Pea


















Rocky Mt. Region Totals







Rob Chandonnet of Star of The West Milling Company represented the Michigan Bean Shippers, which cover a state that is an important black, navy and small red bean producer.

Last year, 200,000 dry bean acres were planted in Michigan. The USDA estimates 180,000 acres for 2013. The Michigan Bean Shippers, however, used seed sales as a means to arrive at the estimate presented in Chicago: 170,300 acres.

Chandonnet attributes the drop in acreage from last year to competition from higher value grain crops (made more attractive by the good yields they showed in 2012) and a lack of support to encourage dry bean planting.

“The end-users thought the market would get softer, so they chose to wait and see how the market developed,” explains Chandonnet.

Recent rains have helped much of Michigan’s dry bean crop. “We’ve seen improvement in crop conditions over previous weeks,” says Chandonnet. The latest USDA report rates crop conditions as 51% good and 12% excellent (as of August 11).

“The maturity of the crop is lagging a little bit,” says Chandonnet, explaining that rains delayed planting into the second and third week of June. “We’ve also been experiencing cool weather, but as of right now, if Mother Nature is on our side, the crop has good potential.”

Michigan’s carryover is nearly at zero because much of the potential carryover was used in response to the poor crops in Central and South America; Argentina’s bean crop, for instance, was devastated by drought earlier this year.

“Looking at supply and demand as well as production numbers, it seems that the majority of all bean classes will be tight,” says Chandonnet. “There’s greater global demand because of what happened in Argentina. We are seeing it with great northerns and alubias. So basically there’s very good potential for exports. It depends on what the market will bear. Everybody in the market right now has been very defensive. The majority of the old crop has been marketed and sold. In regards to new crop, I believe the majority of growers have already forward contracted what they are comfortable with; now they are waiting to see what Mother Nature gives them in regards to yields.”

Chandonnet reports black bean prices at US$ 54 to US$ 56, but he is unsure how heavily traded they are at that price. Michigan black beans are shipped domestically and also exported to Mexico. “It’s very difficult to get a handle on navy bean prices, but they are probably in the high 40s to 50s.” Europe and domestic users are the main markets for Michigan navies.

Data Presented by Rob Chandonnet at U.S. Dry Bean Convention

Variety Acreage Yield (clean wt) Production (cwt)
Pinto 4,000 18 72,000
Small red 11,000 17 187,000
Navy 60,000 19 1,140,000
Black 76,500 18 1,377,000
Cranberry 3,800 18 68,400
Light Red Kidney 7,000 17 119,000
Dark Red Kidney 3,000 16 48,000
Other 5,000 15.8 79,000
Michigan Totals 170,300   3,090,400


Craig Kelley of Rangen Commodities represented the Western Bean Dealers Association, which covers the State of Idaho, known for its garbanzo and pinto production.

“We actually planted early, so everything looks really good as far as crop conditions,” says Kelley. “It’s just that we didn’t get enough of it planted.”

Planted bean acres are down 27% overall this year. Due to competing crops, expected pinto production is down 50%. “Corn and malt barley were offered at a better price at the time of planting,” explains Kelley. “Small reds and pinks were a little bit more attractive on price; I think that’s why there is a small increase there. Almost everything else is down.”

Part of the acreage loss is also attributable to the severe drought conditions present in Idaho, where fields are irrigated. In Chicago, Kelley presented pinto yields of 20.5 bags per acre. “In Idaho, we can yield higher than that. Pintos can do up to 30, sometimes 40 sacks per acre. Our climate warrants a higher yield, but we are being conservative this year because it’s so dry.”

With pinto acreage down, prices are on the rise. “We are already seeing an increase in the out-market price for pintos due to the fact that we are down on acres here and North Dakota planted late. We could experience a lack of supply at harvest. Prices are going up every day on pinto and black beans.”

Additionally, carryover was only reported for pintos; as of mid-July, pinto carryover stood at 10,000 cwt and, Kelley says, this is rapidly dwindling.

“Idaho has a good export market for pintos,” says Kelley, “but given the lack of supply, I expect the export market will be down significantly.”

Lastly, Kelley notes that his figures include seed acreage, not just commercial acreage.

Data Presented by Craig Kelley at U.S. Dry Bean Convention

Variety Acreage Yield (clean wt) Production (cwt)
Pinto 17,000 20.5 348,500
Pink 8,200 20 164,000
Small Red 11,000 22 242,000
Small White 200 20 4,000
Navy 3,000 19 57,000
Great Northern 2,500 20 50,000
Black 1,750 19 33,250
Cranberry 750 17 12,750
Light Red Kidney 1,500 16 24,000
Dark Red Kidney 1,700 18 30,600
Garbanzo 58,000 10 580,000
Other 2,250 18 40,500
Idaho Totals 107,850 1,586,600


Nelson Parreira of Beans R4U, Inc., represented the California Bean Shippers. California’s main pulse crops are blackeye peas, garbanzo beans and baby and large lima beans.

In Chicago, Parreira reported a 20% drop in planted acreage across all bean varieties and attributed it to the lack of water for irrigated fields.

“And in the fields that were planted, we may not see full production if water becomes unavailable,” he says. “Right now, we expect we’ll have enough, but we’ll know for sure in the next 30 days.”

The water shortage is the result of a below normal snowpack, a lack of rains and water allocations for the endangered delta smelt.

“The federal government gave people either 20% of what they were allocated or no water at all,” says Parreira. “Those that have wells are seeing them go dry, forcing them to dig deeper or to dig new wells.”

The low water supplies, however, are not the only factor leading to 2013’s low bean plantings. “We are seeing a lot of trees being planted to grow walnuts, almonds and pistachios, so every year we lose a few acres there, as well.”

Parreira expects a smaller crop due to lower production this year, and predicts that prices will rise. “When prices go up, those who import our beans will probably look to other markets, so our exports will likely be down.”

Data Presented by Nelson Parreira at U.S. Dry Bean Convention

Variety Acreage Yield (clean wt) Production (cwt) Carryover (cwt) Total Supply
Pinto 17 28.00 476   476
Pink 329 20.34 6,692   6,692
Great Northerns 10 18.00 180   180
Black 155 21.45 3 ,325   3 ,325
Cranberry 632 20.64 13,044 13,044
Light Red Kidney 2 ,541 21.48 54,570 1,200 55,770
Dark Red Kidney 615 20.00 12,300 1,000 13,300
Large Lima 6 ,685 25.31 169,180 89,590 258,770
Baby Lima 6 ,734 25.66 172,789 57,300 230,089
Black-Eye Pea 10,741 26.28 282,243 67,830 350,073
Garbanzo 10,929 25.13 274,650 800 275,450
Other 9,847 21.00 206,770 12,177 218,947
California Totals 49,235   1,196,219 229,897 1,426,116
* Data included in “Other” class to avoid disclosing data for individual operations.


Tom Grebb of the Central Bean Company represented the Washington Bean Dealers Association, which covers the State of Washington, a region that enjoys high bean yields.

“Overall we are down 7,000 acres compared to last year,” says Grebb. The biggest decreases compared to 2012 are for pintos and reds; on the other hand, acreage almost doubled for Great Northerns and nearly tripled for light red kidney beans (blacks also saw a slight acreage increase). Grebb attributes the overall acreage drop to higher prices from competing crops, especially corn and, to a lesser extent, alfalfa and timothy hay.

“Some states probably lose more in the growing season than we grow in Washington,” says Grebb about Washington’s modest totals, “but we usually have a high rate of production and good quality. We do a lot of seed up in this area because of our dry, arid climate. It is not conducive to bacterial diseases.”

Washington’s high yield numbers are the result of well-irrigated fields. “Our water comes from the Columbia River, out of the Grand Coulee Dam,” explains Grebb. “All the irrigation that relies on that river only uses 3% of the annual stream flow, so we don’t tax the water availability as much as some of the other states, like Idaho and Colorado. We have a very dependable water source at this point.”

The biggest discrepancy between dealer and USDA acreage figures involves garbanzo plantings in Washington. Whereas the USDA reported 92,000 acres, the Washington Bean Dealers Association reported merely 2,451 acres. Grebb is quick to point out, however, that the Washington Bean Dealers Association only tallied the acreage on the irrigated lands they work with, and that the bulk of the state’s garbanzo production takes place in the non-irrigated Palouse region. A July 30 report from the U.S. Pea and Lentil Council lists Washington’s planted area for garbanzos at 91,047 acres.

Washington’s biggest pulse exports are red beans to Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Although a short crop is expected across the board, Washington’s red bean situation may fare well. “Our red bean carryover is up more than I thought it would be,” notes Grebb.


Data Presented by Tom Grebb at U.S. Dry Bean Convention

Variety Acreage Yield (clean wt) Production (cwt) Carryover (cwt) Total Supply
Pinto 10,883 24.3 264,087 33,973 298,060
Pink 1,063 26.8 28,492 27,531 56,023
Small Red 1,555 24.3 37,806 70,157 107,963
Small White 330 26.4 8,720 2,200 10,920
Navy 281 24.1 6,770 3,000 9,770
Great Northern 1,371 24.2 33,146 300 33,446
Black 3,759 24.6 92,448 21,500 113,948
Cranberry 1,899 25.7 48,748   48,748
Light Red Kidney 1,526 25.5 38,984 500 39,484
Dark Red Kidney 2,316 26.5 61,335 300 61,635
Baby Lima 271 26.0 7,046   7,046
Garbanzo 2,451 18.0 44,118 7,400 51,518
Other 603 24.0 14,466 800 15,266
Washington Totals 28,308   686,166 167,661 853,827

U.S. Totals Presented by the Dealer Associations at U.S. Dry Bean Convention

Variety Acreage Production (cwt) Carryover (cwt) Total Supply
Pinto 482,790 8,291,198 472,789 8,763,987
Pink 21,592 373,184 27,531 400,715
Small Red 26,055 506,806 70,157 576,963
Small White 530 12,720 2,200 14,920
Navy 189,711 3,234,858 33,574 3,268,432
Great Northern 79,254 1,582,753 82,306 1,665,059
Black 147,490 2,477,891 42,583 2,520,474
Cranberry 8,881 171,742 171,742
Light Red Kidney 38,272 710,082 28,896 738,978
Dark Red Kidney 49,631 908,235 1 ,300 909,535
Large Lima 6,685 169,180 89,590 258,770
Baby Lima 7,005 179,835 57,300 237,135
Black-Eye 25,656 477,443 82,597 560,040
Garbanzo 99,738 1,361,841 48,200 1,410,041
Other 28,301 546,804 26,099 572,903
U.S. Totals 1,211,591 21,004,572 1,065,122 22,069,694

USDA Acreage Figures by Bean Class (from Crop Report Released August 12)

Class 2012 Acres 2013 Acres
Large Lima 9,700 6,700
Baby Lima 12,900 6,800
Navy 262,800 197,700
Great Northern 55,600 76,300
Small White 1,200 * See Footnote.
Pinto 729,700 534,600
Light Red Kidney 40,200 40,900
Dark Red Kidney 46,200 49,000
Pink 29,400 19,300
Small Red 40,000 25,300
Cranberry 4,700 4,100
Black 216,800 167,000
Black-Eye 37,400 33,500
Garbanzo 207,900 215,900
Other 48,000 55,500
All Dry Bean Classes 1,742,500 1,432,600
* Data included in “other” class to avoid disclosing data for individual operations.