BOISE — Idaho’s dry bean industry might drop its proposal to ban soybeans from being grown in some parts of the state and instead help pave the way for that crop to be grown here.
Soybean acres in Idaho have fluctuated between a few dozen and a couple hundred, but some people believe it’s only a matter of time before they explode because of the state’s large dairy and cattle industries.
Idaho Bean Commission representatives told legislators this year they are concerned about soybeans bringing in plant diseases such as soybean cyst nematode that could be harmful to dry beans.
A proposal by the IBC to place a moratorium on soybean production in southcentral and southwestern Idaho, where the state’s dry bean industry is centered, has not turned into legislation because lawmakers apparently are not convinced that soybeans pose a real threat to dry beans, IBC Commissioner Don Tolmie told Capital Press.
The commission may now shift its focus to exploring ways to ensure people interested in growing soybeans in Idaho have a source of seed that is certified disease-free and grows well in the region.
During their regular meeting Dec. 7, IBC commissioners talked about the idea of bringing soybeans under the umbrella of the bean commission, which would mean seed for that crop would have to face the same strict testing guidelines that require dry bean seed to undergo serology testing and be certified disease-free.
If legislators aren’t going to accept the industry’s concerns, “then we are going to have to do something different and it seems to me the only way we can do something different is to ... start our own soybean production under the umbrella of the Idaho Bean Commission so we can monitor it and control it,” Tolmie said.
“We can’t fight it so we might as well make sure it’s done safely,” said IBC Commissioner Gina Lohnes.
To ensure there is a supply of disease-free soybean seed that is adapted to the region’s growing conditions, the IBC is talking with Clint Shock, the retiring director of Oregon State University’s Malheur County agriculture experiment station in Ontario.
Shock has been researching and testing soybean varieties in the area for 30 years and told IBC commissioners he would be happy to assist anyone interested in growing soybeans in the region.
“I would be delighted to help you grow out some trials of varieties,” he said.
IBC Administrator Andi Woolf-Weibye said the industry will have a lot of discussions this year with possible stakeholders such as the dairy and livestock industries “to get the barometer of the industry to see where they would like to go with this.”
IBC Commissioner Mike Goodson said it’s important to get ahead of the issue and he would like to have a source of certified disease-free soybean seed available in the next 24 months.
“If the dairy or other industries want soybeans to be grown here, then let’s make sure they’re safe for the bean industry as well,” he said.