WASHINGTON – Federal money for a program aimed at increasing bean, lentil and chickpea consumption has made it into the compromise version of the farm bill now working its way through Congress.
Eastern Washington and Idaho are where “pulse crops” are primarily grown in the United States, and the $10 million pilot program was crafted by U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.
While Crapo and his staff are still reviewing the nearly 1,000-page report, a spokesman for the senator applauded the compromise committee’s decision to include the program.
Pulse crops in Idaho “brought a production value of about $20 million last year,” Crapo press secretary Judd Deere said in an email. “This provision will not only bring economic benefits to Northwestern states, but will provide healthier food options in schools across the nation to reduce obesity and diabetes.”
Cantwell also praised the program’s benefits, noting there’s more than 80,000 acres in production across Eastern Washington that support thousands of jobs.
“These initiatives would mean more research into the health benefits of this booming Washington state crop,” Cantwell said. “Peas and lentils aren’t just the gateway to better health for Americans – they’re also the gateway to more jobs in Eastern Washington.”
Under the proposed plan, schools that participate in the federally subsidized reduced-price meal programs would be required to buy pulse crops over the next five years.
After the five-year study period, the USDA would submit a report to Congress detailing the viability of the program.
Pulse crop is a term for any seed crop that’s not soybeans or peanuts.
The pilot program was originally introduced in the Senate in 2012.
The House is expected to vote on the compromise plan by today, with the Senate voting soon after. The bill could be signed by President Barack Obama this weekend.