Members of the farm bill conference committee are being urged to support two initiatives that could significantly benefit the nation’s pulse crop industry.
The Pulse Health Initiative would provide up to $125 million over five years for research into the health and nutritional benefits of pulse crops, as well as ways to grow them more efficiently.
Another five-year pilot project would promote the use of pulse crops — chickpeas, lentils, dry peas and dry beans — in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrition programs.
Compared with their health and nutritional value, pulse crops are “terribly under-researched,” said U.S. Dry Pea & Lentil Council CEO Tim McGreevy. “The industry has put as much money as it possibly can into research but we need some public assistance as well.”
The Senate version of the farm bill authorizes $125 million for the PHI, while the House version authorizes it but has no dollar amount included.
If the Senate version of the PHI makes it into the final farm bill, “it would be a true game-changer for the pulse industry,” McGreevy said. “It would allow for some serious health and nutrition research, which has been lacking in these crops.”
The Pacific Northwest leads the nation in pulse crop production and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., have taken the lead on a letter that asks members of the conference committee to support the two proposals.
The bi-partisan letter is signed by other senators from pulse growing states, including Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota.
It was sent to the 41 members of the farm bill conference committee, which is trying to merge the farm bills passed by the House and Senate into one final piece of legislation.
The PHI would support expanded research into the health benefits of pulse crops, including their ability to reduce obesity, diabetes and hearth disease.
The letter states that, “More research is needed into how to incorporate pulse crops into a healthy diet, how to grow them more efficiently and how they benefit human health.”
The Palouse region that encompasses parts of eastern Washington and northern Idaho is one of the primary growing locations for pulse crops in the United States.
Washington is the nation’s top chickpea producer and ranks third for pea and lentil production. Idaho is the nation’s fourth largest pulse crop producer by acreage and accounts for about 11 percent of total U.S. output.
Pulse crops are important to the Pacific Northwest because of their economic impact, McGreevy said, but because of their health benefits — they are high in dietary fiber and potassium and low in fat — “they are important crops to the country as well.”