Loading pulses

ITC loads pulses into train cars for shipping. On the right are the new grain bins the company built. Photo courtesy of Kathy McLane.

GLENDIVE, Mont. – From the first seed in the ground to growing, harvesting, marketing, and more, the newest pulse crop receiving facility in eastern Montana wants to work with producers every step of the way.

“We’re very excited about our new venture, but we want to do it right. Eventually, we’ll be a full service facility, so we have brought an agronomist on board to work with producers on planting, growing and harvesting pulses,” said John Piracha, president of ITC International Inc. (ITC).

ITC has been an international trading company, based in Canada, for more than 20 years. It supplies products to more than 20 countries worldwide.

The company has had significant experience with pulses, and is now expanding into Montana.

They looked for an area in Montana that was not being fully serviced for pulse growers. The Glendive community fit that, and there are a lot of growers in the eastern Montana region that either grow pulses in their rotation or are open to growing pulses.

“We’ll be watching the market, and see how it goes,” Piracha said. “We want to be able to provide a good price for our growers, with premiums.”

Piracha said ITC is growing “very slowly” in three phases and is becoming an integral part of the community, as well. He moved to Glendive at the beginning of the summer and has been working with community leaders on building the facility throughout the summer.

The first phase has started and is the initial operational stage with storing and shipping the pulses. They constructed bins and brought in contracted pulses, and are loading train cars to ship the pulses out.

“This summer, we contracted some acres, and are processing and shipping them out right now,” Piracha said. ITC contracted some acres of red lentils, Richlea green lentils, Kabuli chickpeas and some new Desi chickpeas this summer.

In the yard, they have 21 rail cars that they are busy loading with pulses and shipping them out.

In the future, the pulse crops they contract for will expand.

One of the crops ITC hopes to contract for is black gram, a pulse in demand in India. Dr. Chengci Chen, supervisor of Montana State University Eastern Ag Research Center, will grow it in research trials next year, to find out the best way for the crop to be grown in eastern Montana.

“There’s an opportunity here for producers to take some of that pulse market share and grow different types of pulses,” he said.

In the second phase, ITC will acquire a mobile cleaning unit, so they can clean the pulses, and acquire a unit that can bag pulses into retail packages. In the third phase, they will be adding value to the pulses.

He has been working with Bruce Smith, MSU Extension agent in Dawson County, Chen and others at EARC, Montana Department of Agriculture, MidRivers Economic Development, BNSF, and other area businesses.

“The new facility will give producers more options in bringing their crops to the market. As Montana pulse crop acreage increases each year, this is a facility that will continue to grow, while creating opportunities for the eastern Montana producers and the Glendive community,” said Treston Vermandel, Eastern Montana Business Development specialist with the state ag department.

In 2011, Montana took the lead in U.S. pulse crop acreage and now leads the nation for dry pea and lentil production.

More Montana producers are including peas, lentils, and chickpeas in their rotations as the number of elevators and processing plants increases throughout the state.

“Pulses are a versatile crop that Montana farmers can grow to promote biodiversity, improve soil health, and generate income from local and global markets,” Vermandel said.

Piracha said he looks forward to building relationships and creating opportunities for everyone involved with this project – now and in the future.