In this blog about Common Pulse Misconceptions, Paul Kanning shares the ins-and-outs of the Montana pulse industry, and what he believes are the most common misconceptions among growers and consumers, regionally and nationally.

G-K-G (Get to Know the Grower)

Paul Kanning, Montana pulse grower and Montana Pulse Crop Committee member, shared some of the most common pulse misconceptions that he’s heard during his eight years as a farmer. Paul’s primary crops are yellow peas, red lentils, canola, and spring wheat, but he occasionally grows flax and faba beans. You can find Paul serving on the Montana Pulse Crop Committee and his local hospital board where he finds it valuable to contribute to society and be able to serve others. He’s also part of the Northern Pulse Growers Association (NPGA) and the Montana Grain Growers Association.

According to Paul, initial pulse crop production in Montana started approximately 30 years ago, with acres continuing to expand. “As acreage grew, so did processors and trade industry in the state, leading to MT House Bill 614 enacted in 2017 to exempt new pulse-processing equipment from property taxation,” he explains. Today, most areas of this state are involved in growing pulses. Montana also interacts with industry members in Canada and North Dakota, Paul says, either through utilization of CDC seed, selling & trading commodities, or through joint-state grower organizations like NPGA.

When it comes to the future of the Montana pulse industry, Paul thinks disease management is critical for growers. “If growers are not good stewards, we could face increases in Aphanomyces, which would severely cut back on our ability to produce pulse crops,” he says. “As for the industry as a whole, sustainable improvements in domestic pulse consumption would help protect the industry from export market factors.”


Pulse Grower Misconceptions

Paul says a common misconception is that the US Pea & lentil Trade Association (USPLTA) has access to their checkoff dollars, but have many misconceptions about how their checkoff dollars are spent. According to Kanning, the “USPLTA cannot spend checkoff funds and does not have access to any checkoff funding. Checkoff funds belong to the pulse growers and are designed to assist the growers.” Growers voted in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington on whether to start these programs on pulses. “After voting yes, a 1% checkoff assessment was instituted. So, when a farmer sells their pulses, 1% of the total proceeds are automatically taken from the settlement check and sent to that state’s governing board,” he explains.

In Montana, the Montana Pulse Crop Committee determines how to invest these checkoff funds to support pulses. “Grants are awarded to various organizations to do this,” he says. Funds can go to research projects that have higher yields, or they can be spent to help develop markets at home or abroad. 

Misconceptions can put the checkoff program at risk. Additionally, he shares that growers may not see the progress that has been done in research collaboration. It would help, he believes, if growers know the end use of their product, since “they don’t know if it’s being cleaned and bagged for retail, fractionated into protein/starch/hulls as a food ingredient, or sent into the feed market (pets or otherwise).”

He also believes that growers don’t see how widespread pulse production is across the United States. Attending local pulse day events like Montana Pulse Day is another opportunity to share and educate yourself and fellow pulse industry farmers. Another way to stay informed is to get involved with grower organizations, like the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, NPGA and WPGA.

Consumer Misconceptions of Pulses

While many pulses end up in the hands (or mouths and stomachs) of consumers, they may lack understanding when it comes to agriculture and pulse farming. Paul says he’s heard some confusion when it comes to the term ‘pulse.’ Many consumers, he believes, confuse dry peas with the sweet green peas that they’re probably most familiar with. He adds that “Faba beans are confusing too because Hannibal Lector made fava beans famous – too bad he didn’t say faba instead.”

Paul says consumers may be unaware about the environmental or nutrition benefits of pulses. “And the primary misconception is they don’t realize how easy it is to incorporate pulses into their meals,” he says, adding on that consumers tend to gravitate towards lentil soup without branching out to other pulse recipes.

When it comes to consumer education, social media and traditional media (broadcast or online news) are key to reaching this audience, Paul tells us. Right now, he primarily uses Twitter for education and says there are a lot of great experts, resources and insights available on Twitter for industry members.

What common pulse misconceptions have you heard? Share your thoughts about these misconceptions and others by joining our exclusive pulse industry group, also on Facebook.

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