Treasure Valley Seed Company

Dry bean seed production in Idaho and Wyoming
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Drew Taylor

Dry bean production in the U.S. has accelerated over the last 60 years. Each year farmers plant from 1.8 to 2 million acres of dry beans, mainly pinto, navy, great northern, red kidney and black beans, according to the U.S. Dry Bean Council. With two processing facilities in Homedale, Idaho, and Powell, Wyoming, Treasure Valley Seed Company (TV Seed) supplies all of these varieties of dry bean seed and many more.

TV Seed has built big business with bean processors by supplying high-quality seeds with leading genetics, backed by exceptional customer service and dependability. “Meeting the high demand has been our biggest challenge, because with weather conditions and the lack of irrigation water, it’s tough to get seed growing, but we’re known for our dependability in filling orders,” says Paul Varner, co-owner of TV Seed.

Meeting major demand

With the bean business booming, Varner says demand is at a record high. “We have seen a shift in buyer behavior, moving from customers ordering seed as needed to forecasting a year in advance,” explains Varner. “We have two-thirds of our dry bean seed crop already sold. These days, most orders come in before we’ve even planted the crop. This really helps us plan the production so we can have the right variety and quantity ready for our customers.”

TV Seed’s dry bean seeds travel from the company’s processing facilities in Homedale and Powell and onto bean processors throughout the United States and Canada. “About two-thirds of our seed production is generated out of Idaho and a third comes from the Wyoming plant,” says Varner.

Over the last decade, TV Seed has grown by leaps and bounds. When business started out, the company’s sole location was in Homedale. “I’m originally from Michigan,” says Varner. “I went to school at Michigan State University, where I received a crop and soil science degree and went to work as an agronomist for a family-owned elevator handling grain and dry beans called Auburn Bean and Grain.”

After getting his feet wet in the industry, Varner worked his way up to plant manager in Auburn, MI.  Auburn Bean and Grain sold their dry bean business to Agri-Sales in 1996. “I spent five years with a new company called Agri-Sales in their dry bean seed division, which eventually sold off to ADM,” he recounts. “In February 2004, myself and two partners bought out the single owner of TV Seed, which at the time had a single location in Idaho.”

“We have grown a lot since then,” says Varner. Since 2004, TV Seed has added the Powell facility and performed updates and expansions numerous times at both processing sites. “In Powell, we have recently added a new color sorter line, which is a serious equipment investment,” says Varner. “This improves our processing efficiency and product quality by removing defects and off-type seeds.”

The positioning of TV Seed’s two locations also plays a role in the quality of the end product. “Dry bean seeds are highly susceptible to bacterial and fungal disease; that’s the major reason we grow in the West,” explains Varner. “All of our acreage is irrigated by snowpack reservoirs. The arid mountains and surrounding desert valleys in this region do not get a lot of rain during the growing season and there is less humidity, reducing the risk of disease and making for more ideal growing conditions.”

Snowpack irrigation also protects TV Seed’s crops from weather disasters such as drought and flooding. “This kind of irrigation allows us to have a more dependable supply,” adds Varner. “Our yields don’t fluctuate as much.”

Starting at the root

But TV Seed doesn’t rely solely on the regional climate for top-quality dry bean seed production; the company also implements a range of leading seed treatment chemicals. “Working with Syngenta, a leading agribusiness involved in biotechnology and genomic research, TV Seed has recently added the Vibrance seed treatment product to its line,” says Varner. “This fungicide is used in tandem with four other fungicides.”

Bare patches and thin or uneven stands are signs of dry bean seedlings under attack. The Vibrance product protects young crops from seed- and soil-born fungal organisms, including Rhizoctonia. The application forms a zone of protection around the plant’s root system, resulting in stronger, healthier roots below ground and a plant with higher yield potential above.

“At TV Seed, we’re committed to supplying the most current and sought-after dry bean genetics, backed with leading seed treatments,” says Varner. “We offer highly competitively priced products and have a proven record of consistency and reliability.”

For these reasons, bean processors throughout the country continue to call on TV Seed and the demand for its dry bean seed products is constant. “We have thought about diversifying into other commodities, but we have all we can manage just doing dry beans,” says Varner.

Like any commodity crop business, Varner says TV Seed faces one major hurdle: Mother Nature. “It’s always dependent on the weather, but we control some of it by growing purposely in this region where there is less rain,” he says. “The irrigation water comes from the snowpack, so we do rely on a solid winter to produce enough water for the growing season.”

This year, Varner says the snowpack has come up a bit short, leaving about 1,000 acres of area without a guaranteed water supply. “This year some areas had enough and others were lacking,” he says.

Although Idaho and Wyoming are not in the same drought situation as California, Varner says it still impacts TV Seed. “There is a good amount of dry bean production in California and when there isn’t enough being produced there, customers call on us,” he says. “There’s pressure to meet the demand, especially when a chunk of our acreage is coming up short in irrigation supply.”

Varner says overwhelming demand is a good problem to have, making dry bean seed production a viable market for the long haul. “People eat beans all over the world,” he says. “They’re rich in fiber and offer health benefits consumers are looking for. The United Nations has deemed 2016 as the ‘Year of the Pulse,’ so I see good demand for beans in the future.”

Within a growing pulse market, Treasure Valley Seed Company is strategically positioned to continue to supply top quality dry bean seeds to the North American market.

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