The General Assembly of the United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity it provides to showcase these crops,” said Tim McGreevy, CEO of the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council and American Pulse Association and treasurer of the International Pulse Trace and Industry Confederation.
The industry believed the profile of pulse crops — dry beans, dry peas, lentils and chickpeas — needed to be elevated and recognized for their value in the world market, McGreevy said.
“More name recognition is great — here in the U.S. there’s still a lot of people who don’t know what a lentil is, and chickpeas are something you see on the salad bar or something,” said Jim Thompson, Farmington, Wash., farmer and a board member of the Western Pea and Lentil Growers Association and a director of the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council and the American Pulse Association.
Thompson said he typically raises 400 acres of pulses each year in rotation with winter and spring wheat or spring barley.
McGreevy said the international year may focus on four themes:
• Pulse production and food security.
• Nutrition and food innovation.
• Environmental sustainability.
• Market access and stability.
“They are the lowest-cost vegetable protein and dietary fiber you can buy,” McGreevy said.
Events will be held in the United States, but he said it’s too early to tell what activities will take place in the Pacific Northwest.
McGreevy said pulse farmers would benefit from increased production and consumption as pulses are introduced in new foods for consumers.
Thompson said he believes the international recognition gives more legitimacy to the industry’s efforts to work with government officials, perhaps causing them to pay closer attention.
“Any time you get a chance to promote your crop and tell people how good it is for nutrition, I think it’s a great deal,” Thompson said. “Any time we can get more of these crops used, it’s going to help our bottom line here on the farm.”