A public ribbon cutting was held Wednesday, Nov. 1, to mark the opening of a new bulk terminal facility, at 733 East Front Street in Shelby.
The Hinrichs Trading Company bulk gathering facility will be used “primarily for chickpeas,” according to Curtis Shuck, a consultant with the Port of Northern Montana.
Hinrichs Trading Company is a chickpea-processing company based in Pullman, Wash. CEO and president Phil Hinrichs began the company 15 years ago, which now supports chickpea producers across six states and processes and ships chickpeas, according to the company’s website.
Montana farmers have ramped up production of chickpeas and other pulse crops over the past several years. According to the Montana Department of Agriculture, in 2015 Montana became the number one producer of pulse crops, which include chickpeas, lentils, and peas, in the United States.
Between 2013 and 2016, pulse crop acreage rose from 601,910 acres to just over 1.2 million acres. For chickpeas specifically, acreage rose from 17,812 acres in 2013 to 108,309 acres in 2016, according to a report from the Department of Agriculture called Pulse Trends 2016 available on the department’s website.
Shuck explained that an expanding Asian market is in part responsible for the growing demand for pulse crops. Along with that market, pulse crops can be fractionalized so that proteins and starches can be separated and used in other products such as sports drinks, pasta and dog food.
“A lot of neat opportunities are really starting to emerge with the development of these pulses,” Shuck said.
The hardy crops grow well in northern Montana, including the Northern Triangle, Shuck added.
The facility is a point of pride for the Port of Northern Montana and will eventually utilize the multi-million-dollar multimodal facility east of Shelby. Five employees are needed immediately, with more added “as the plant comes on board,” Shuck said.
The jobs, including positions such as truck drivers and operators, will be filled by a mix of community members and existing Hinrichs employees, Shuck said.
Hinrichs Trading Company will begin operation in a leased building, but within five years that operation will move to the multimodal facility, triggering a new property tax source to Toole County. Processing will be added at the time the company moves operations to the multimodal facility, Shuck said.
Beginning or completing the processing of products is part of a push for value-added agriculture in Montana. Costs can be kept low if crops can be processed on location or without a third party, Shuck said. Along with costs, Shuck said that producers are becoming more concerned with “identity preserved products.”
“More and more there’s a requirement to certify that that product has remained in your care, custody, and control through the entire value cycle,” he explained. By eliminating a third party in the processing step, producers and consumers can be sure of a product’s “identity.”
Value-added also affords job growth, too. Shuck praised the Montana Department of Agriculture for “working with local companies to create” value-added opportunities.
Shelby mayor Larry Bonderud also is excited to have the facility opening.
“On behalf of the Port of Northern Montana and the City of Shelby we would like to welcome Hinrichs Trading Company to northern Montana,” Bonderud said in an email. “Their plant location in Shelby will bring local agriculture producers much closer to the market for their products. Pulse crops are becoming very important to Montana producers and chickpeas are a very important crop in the pulse crop mix.”
Wednesday’s ribbon cutting featured several speakers, including Ken Fichtler, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development; Phil Hinrichs, president and CEO of Hinrichs Trading Company; and Bonderud.