Wednesday, May 10, 2017/Categories: Opinions
Agriculture across Montana has undergone an evolution over the past 20 years as production of “pulse” crops (peas, lentils, and chickpeas) flourished. What began as a niche sector has exploded into Montana becoming the nation’s leading producer of pulse superfoods. Just last year, the U.N. General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, resulting in the launch of over 1,150 new food products containing pulse ingredients in U.S. grocery stores.
Now Montana growers face a choice: Do we sit idly by and see what happens with our pulse markets? Or do we get proactive, capitalize on recent accomplishments, and expand our marketing to its fullest potential? Soon growers will make that decision. By early May, all Montana pulse producers will receive a survey in the mail asking whether they want to temporarily increase the assessment on pulse crops.
Currently growers are assessed a one percent fee when they sell their pulse crops. Montana pulse growers established this checkoff program in 2005 to generate the funding needed to research new pulse varieties, develop new markets and find solutions to pulse crop diseases. It’s a grower-funded program, organized at the request of growers, to advance Montana’s pulse industry.
The program has already yielded exceptional results including: Pulse provisions in the Farm Bill, crop revenue insurance, 15 years of steadily increasing exports, and new varieties that have improved both yield and disease resistance. These are just a few of the many successes the checkoff investments have delivered to Montana pulse farmers. Across the state, pulse production has exploded, with overall acres doubling in just 3 years to over 1.2 million acres.
As Montana’s production continues to grow, it’s also the perfect time to grow the efforts of the checkoff program. Surveys will soon be mailed from Montana’s Department of Agriculture to ask pulse growers whether they support increasing their assessment from 1 percent to 1.5 percent for three years. These surveys must be returned by June 2nd so the Montana Pulse Advisory Committee can use the results to determine their future course of action on the pulse assessment.
As family farmers who produce pulse crops and who care about future opportunities of the pulse industry in Montana, we encourage Montana’s growers to support the assessment increase by voting “yes” on the survey.
It’s time to expand the awareness and usage of pulses among consumers. It’s time to advance research on the nutritional benefits of these superfoods. It’s time to increase market demand throughout North America. It’s time to join our neighbors in Idaho who already increased their assessment for 3 years and our neighbors in Washington and North Dakota who are considering the same. We need to stand up in support of our industry, and we need to support a short 3-year increase of our assessment by just a half of a percent.
Voice your support, vote yes on the pulse assessment survey.
Written by Kim Murray and Paul Kanning. Kim farms in Froid and Paul farms in Flaxville. Both are family farmers who produce pulse crops.