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Six Northarvest Bean Priorities for 2006
January 17, 2006

1) The new Farm Bill  The 2002 Farm Bill  officially, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002  was signed into law on May 13, 2002 and extends through 2007.  Politics, the federal budget, and the ongoing World Trade Organization negotiations will all play a part on when a new farm bill is written, and whats in it.  Debate on the new farm bill is already underway, however, and will only gain steam, especially in this, an election year.

What the
U.S. dry bean industry wants to see in a new farm bill  and what it doesnt want  will be a top issue on the Northarvest Bean Growers Association agenda in 2006.

One subject up for debate  a carryover of the 2002 Farm Bill from the 1995 Freedom to Farm Act  is the planting flexibility provision which permits any commodity to be grown on contract acreage, except fruits and vegetables, including dry edible beans and potatoes. Some exceptions are made for fruits and vegetables, with an acre-for-acre loss of payment.

Paul Burgener,
University of Nebraska ag economics research analyst with the Panhandle Research and Extension Center, wrote a backgrounder on this provision after the 2002 Farm Bill was completed; it can be found online at

A key premise behind the provision as it applies to dry edible beans is to provide a means of acreage and production stability to help prevent extreme supply/demand market disruptions.  But has this provision worked as intended?  Does proving production history help or hinder dry edible bean growers?  Has the effect of the provision, if any, been the same in other production areas of the
U.S., such as Michigan and the High Plains?  Will the provision continue to be allowable under WTO? These are questions that need to be addressed, says Northarvest Bean executive vice president Tim Courneya, perhaps in a policy study.

Other farm bill issues as they apply to dry edible beans also need to be considered, including export programs and crop insurance.  Growers and other members of the industry with comments and ideas on what theyd like to see in a new farm bill, as it pertains to dry beans, are encouraged to contact Courneya or members of the Northarvest board (see listing on table of contents, page 3).

2) New plant breeder, pathologist  With the ascension of Ken Grafton to director of the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and dean of the North Dakota State University College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources, the Northarvest bean growing area has been without a plant breeder.  That should change in 2006.  A search is on for a new breeder, and the position is expected to be filled early in the year.  As well, a search is on for a new plant pathologist at NDSU to focus on dry beans and other pulse crops.  Having a new plant breeder and pathologist in place will go a long way in advancing the Northarvest bean research agenda.

3) National organization consolidation   Northarvest Bean has been at the forefront of an effort to consolidate Bean Health Alliance, the American Dry Bean Board, and the U.S. Dry Bean Council into one national organization. Northarvest Bean believes that one go-to national organization would give the U.S. dry bean industry a unified approach to addressing dry bean issues and achieving industry objectives.

A merger plan will be formally voted upon by boards of the BHA, ADBB, and USDBC early this year.  If approved, a transition period of several months would follow to ensure the continuity of national program and budget commitments, and to allow new managerial and organizational structures to take shape.

4) Exports/food aid  During the first five years of the 2000s, 19% of the
U.S. dry bean supply was exported annually, according to USDA-ERS. Leading export varieties in 2003/04 were pinto (30% of dry bean export value), navy (17%), black beans (14%), and Great Northern (8%). U.S. dry bean exports consist of commercial exports and U.S. food aid (direct donations and concessional programs, such as the PL 480 program).  Its a Northarvest goal to increase the amount of dry beans included in U.S. food aid programs.  Theres good reason, given the tremendous nutritional value of the commodity.

5) Domestic promotion  Last January, the sixth edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released, providing science-based advice to promote health and reduce risk of chronic diseases through nutrition and physical activity. The Guidelines recognize beans as a necessary part of a healthy diet and encourage people to eat at least three cups of beans per week.  The Guidelines classify beans as a vegetable and as a non-meat protein source because they contain nutrients found in both of the respective food groups.

Beans and legumes are spotlighted as a fiber-rich carbohydrate source: dietary fiber has numerous proven health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and some cancers, promoting regularity and helping with weight maintenance.  Further,
U.S. dietary guidance suggestions state that diets including beans may reduce your risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Thus, theres a great story to tell about dry beans, and the NBGA wants to see a stronger emphasis on getting that story to consumers, in part by educating health and nutrition opinion leaders and influencers.

6) Communication with growers, industry members The NBGAs key means of communicating the associations efforts include Bean Day, publication of the Northarvest Bean Grower magazine, and our web site,  Effective communication is a two-way process, so we encourage input and involvement from dry bean growers and members of the industry as Northarvest Bean works toward achieving priorities 1 through 5 as well as addressing other issues. 


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