By Rob Carroll | Daily Chronicla Staff Writer
DeKALB - In a deal signed Tuesday at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau, an agriculture business consulting firm and an international trader agreed to export 15,000 tons of dry field peas to Cuba later this year.
RAPCO, an agriculture business consulting firm based in Rochelle, is currently looking for farmers in the state who want to participate in the program by planting crops of dry field peas.
“The yields are similar, if not better than, current soybean crops,” RAPCO CEO Ron Hagemann said.
According to Hagemann, some farmers already have agreed to participate. He said approximately half of them are from the northern half of the state.
Hagemann expects to pick up more growers in the southern part of the state in the coming weeks.
“We’ve just begun representing downstate, and I think that’s going to progress a lot as we move south,” he said.
According to information provided by RAPCO, farmers in the southern half of the state can typically plant seed for these peas sometime in February and harvest them in May.
In the northern half, farmers could possibly plant in March and harvest toward the end of June.
“There’s always a window that appears in March that we can plant this crop,” Hagemann said.
Hagemann said dry field peas are a cool-weather crop that can be grown early in the year.
“This crop will germinate at 40 degrees, which is a lot earlier and a lot cooler than other crops,” he said.
This can be beneficial to farmers who are used to battling persistent insect and disease problems.
“Most of these insect and disease pressure problems you run into occur during warmer weather,” Hagemann said.
Wayne Carrick, an international trader with North Carolina-based PS Inter-national Ltd., has been working in other states for nearly two years to implement similar plans to send dry field peas to Cuba.
“It’s just kind of making its way east,” Carrick said.
Under the Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which was established in 2000, the United States can send some food and medical supplies to Cuba.
Carrick has seen a rise in demand for dry field peas in recent years.
“We have sold all the peas in the United States for the last three years,” he said.
According to Carrick, Cuba has been primarily buying peas from France and Canada.
“(Cuba is) price-conscious, but sometimes you might get two or three dollars more a ton than Canada,” Carrick said.
Those wanting to participate in the program can buy seed for the dry field peas through RAPCO. Hagemann said the price for the seed is similar to what is charged for soybeans.
However, Milt Voss, chief operations officer for RAPCO, said more seed needs to be purchased for dry field peas, which can make the overall price higher.
Farmers participating will receive half of their payment when they drop off their shipments at the designated loading sites. In northern Illinois, loading sites are available in Belvidere and Sterling.
The rest of the money will be paid out once the company has completed the sale with Cuba.
Hagemann explained that dry field peas are somewhat similar to lentils. RAPCO once tested a similar program using lentils, but was unsuccessful.
“It grows too low to the ground and is harder to cut,” Hagemann said about the lentil.
Dry field peas offer additional benefits over lentils. Hagemann said the crop can be used as an alternative feed source for livestock.
Also, the crop is able to be planted and harvested without the farmer purchasing any equipment other than what is already used to plant and harvest soybeans.