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UN-declared 'International Year of Pulses' an opportunity for Michigan ag

NEW YORK -- Leaders from Michigan's dry bean industry were on hand Nov. 18 in New York for the launch of the International Year of Pulses (IYOP), a celebration of pulse crops declared by the United Nations set to take place throughout 2016.

Beans make up an important part of the pulse category – a term describing the edible seeds of several plants, such as dry beans, dry peas, lentils and chickpeas. The U.N. resolution notes that beans are an important and low-cost protein source for families worldwide, and play a critical role in the global food supply.

Michigan is a top dry bean production state, and home to some of the most advanced bean production and processing technologies in the world.

"Beans are an important part of the pulse category, and celebrating the International Year of Pulses gives us a chance to talk about what we do and highlight what makes our area unique," said Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Bean Shippers. "The recognition by the United Nations has special importance here in Michigan, because our state is a leader in dry bean production and home to a modern, forward-looking bean industry. We have a real opportunity in 2016 to help folks learn more about the benefits of beans and our Michigan production."

Byrum noted that past efforts like the International Year of Pulses have greatly expanded consumer awareness and markets for other crops. In 2013, the U.N. marked the International Year of Quinoa, leading to a sharp increase in awareness and demand for the crop, and expanded exports from key quinoa-producing nations. The hope is that IYOP will put pulses "center stage" in the global food conversation – including events being planned world-wide to focus on pulse production research, nutritional benefits, and ways families can incorporate more beans and other pulses in their diet.

Thanks to unique growing conditions – including an optimal climate and soil type to produce multiple bean varieties – Michigan is a key bean producing state. Michigan is also home to many processors with extensive experience and using the latest technologies to ensure food safety and meet customer demand.

For Michigan, the International Year of Pulses will be an opportunity to highlight the high quality, reliability and sustainability of the state's bean sector, and ultimately will benefit all of Michigan agriculture.

"Our bean producers and processers have a remarkable story to tell here in Michigan, and the success of past efforts like this one shows we have a real opportunity in 2016," said Byrum. "Together with our focus on the future and drive to provide a high-quality, safe and nutritious product, we look forward to sharing more information about Michigan beans during the 2016 International Year of Pulses."