HINGHAM, Mont. – The first couple of years the folks from Belle Pulses USA attended the MAGIE, they were just trying to get farmers to know who they were. At the time, the startup Hi-Line pulse elevator didn’t have a whole lot of name recognition. That was three years ago.
“Since then, we’ve gone every year to develop more relationships with producers across the state, and every year it’s resulted in more acres contracted, and we’ve been able to grow our business and expand,” said General Manager Jayson Hauer.
Belle Pulses began its U.S. operation in 2014, when the Canadian owner of two pulse elevators north of the border bought an existing facility, gutted and rebuilt it. The company started by processing whole peas and lentils for domestic and international markets.
This January, it expanded its operation to include a new splitting line.
“The new line allows us to split peas, which opens a ton of new markets for us,” Hauer said.
The company also rolled out a new robotic palletizer, which allows for more efficient bagging and stacking for rail car shipping.
The company has done well with U.S. government tenders for food aid with its green and yellow split peas, and it has found new markets in Peru and elsewhere in South America.
“It’s a way to keep pulse crops moving since the market’s up and down,” Hauer said.
Belle Pulses typically tries to have its 2019 pricing out by the time MAGIE rolls around, so farmers can sign acreage contracts right at the beginning of the year. (The company also offers farmers spot contracts throughout the year for product already in the bin.)
At the moment, the pea market is “steady, although not as high as a lot of guys would like,” Hauer said. The lentil market is less certain, with tariffs with India and China hurting the market and bringing prices down. That said, India is drier than normal.
“They’re not predicting the best harvest, so depending on what happens there we could see some movement of pricing,” Hauer said. “If they don’t have the product, they might lower tariffs to bring it in.”