One Roof, One Voice
November 23, 2005
It's a matter of the dry bean industry working together under one roof and speaking with one voice.
As Northarvest Bean executive vice president Tim Courneya sees it, that's the key advantage of a proposed merger of the nation's three dry bean groups.
Here's a look at the three, and who does what now:
*Bean Health Alliance (www.beansforhealth.org) Based in Accord, Mass., the BHA, a 501(c)(6) organization, was established in 2003 and officially designated the "International Alliance to Promote the Health Benefits of Dry Beans and Other Pulses," a name which in itself explains the mission of the BHA. The BHA is supported partially by a two-year $1.5 million U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Global Development Alliance grant.
*American Dry Bean Board (www.americanbean.org) Based in Vienna, Va., the ADBB is made up of leaders in the bean industry with the common goal of educating U.S. consumers about the benefits of beans. Through the Bean Education & Awareness Network (B.E.A.N.), the ADBB gives a voice to the bean industry and provides information to consumers and media about the good taste, nutritional value and versatility of beans. ADBB's focus is primarily the domestic market.
*U.S. Dry Bean Council (www.usdrybeans.com) Based in Grapeview, Washington, with representation in Washington D.C., this is the export arm of the industry, representing growers and shippers of U.S. edible dry beans in overseas markets, and promoting consumption and marketing of edible dry beans worldwide.
All three national organizations do good work; they promote the consumption of beans. But one can see where media, consumers, end users and policy makers might get confused as to who to turn to for dry bean information.
"One go-to organization would give us a unified response to key food industry trends," says Courneya, "from promoting beans to consumers and the media, to addressing competition from imports and from other foods, and in addressing regulatory issues as well. In promoting the consumption of beans and the health benefits of beans, it just seems to make sense to have everyone on the same page."
The Northarvest Bean Growers Association Board of Directors is solidly in favor of merging the three national dry bean organizations, says Courneya, who serves as the chairman of the Futures Committee that is coordinating the national consolidation effort. The committee comprises members of the dry bean industry, and includes processors, state bean organizations, and representatives of the BHA, ADBB, and USDBC.
Last July, boards of the three national groups approved the merger concept presented by the Futures Committee. Courneya credits leadership of the three national groups for their vision in seeing beyond organizational "turf" in favor of the best interests of the dry bean industry.
The Futures Committee has assembled a draft set of bylaws for a merged national organization, to be reviewed and then voted upon by boards of the BHA, ADBB, and USDBC in January, 2006.
There are many details still to be worked out, including finances, governance structure, committees, budgets, management, personnel, and responsibilities. There's also the issue of selecting a new name for a consolidated national organization; preliminarily called Bean Alliance USA, although that's subject to change.
If a merger is approved, a transition period of several months would follow to ensure the continuity of program and budget commitments, and to allow new managerial and organizational structures to take shape.
Courneya points out that there may be initial costs upfront in merging the organizations, but in the long run, there would be business and cost efficiencies of one national organization, and ultimately, a more effective investment of checkoff dollars and industry funding of bean promotion programs.