March 28, 2016

Year Of Pulse Crops

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

This year has been declared the International Year of Pulses to help raise awareness of the importance of these crops in meeting world nutrition needs, encourage research and development and better ensure the availability of pulse crops to consumers around the world.  Pulse crops include dry peas, dry beans, lentils and chickpeas.  Idaho pulse crop producers are working hard to meet this important nutritional need.   

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that despite pulse crops being an important part of the human diet for thousands of years and a vital crop today for food security, combatting malnutrition, alleviating poverty, improving human health and enhancing agricultural sustainability, in many countries the production of pulses is not meeting demand.  Opportunities to encourage increased connections to utilize pulses, advance the production of pulse crops and address challenges in the trade of pulses are to be promoted throughout this International Year of Pulses. 

Idaho is leading the charge as a national leader in the production of pulse crops.  The Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) reports that Idahois one of the top five producing states for multiple varieties of pulse crops, accounting for significant percentages of total U.S. production.  Additionally, pulse crops are a top commodity in Idaho and account for tens of millions of dollars in production value for the state's agriculture economy.  In 2013 alone, Idahoans produced more than $81 million worth of dry beans, more than $13.7 million worth of dry peas and $9.2 million worth of lentils.  

I joined Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and other Senators representing pulse crop producing states in introducing a resolution recognizing the important role of pulse crop production in Idaho, the U.S. and the world.  The significant benefits of these crops are acknowledged in the resolution, S.Res.397:  

  • A pulse is an important component of a nutritious diet and is high in protein, vitamins, fiber and minerals, including iron potassium, magnesium and zinc;
  • A pulse helps prevent serious and chronic illness, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke;
  • A legume serves as an important rotation crop, keeps soil fertile and improves overall soil health by replenishing nitrogen;
  • A pulse crop provides food security and nutrition to much of the developing world as a low-cost source of protein; and
  • A pulse crop is an important economic development crop for small farmers, for both domestic production and export potential.

Further, the resolution would express Senate support for the recognition of 2016 as the Year of Pulses, participation in related activities and programs to support the cultivation and consumption of pulses.  

The FAO recognizes pulses as excellent sources of fiber and folate; good sources of protein and potassium; iron-rich; high in antioxidants; sodium-free; and cholesterol-free.  The FAO indicates that pulses and legumes help children grow and provide the nutrients needed to repair the body and help older people protect against illness and keep them in good health.  

Idaho pulse crop producers deserve to be commended for their contributions to ensuring the availability of these important crops and advancing nutritional options for Idahoans and consumers around the world.  

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