With Food Prices Up, a “Bean New Deal” May Be Part of the Answer

A trip to the grocery store these days is a crash course in climate change’s toll on supply chains.

Groceries prices have risen every month For the past year, everything from the lingering has been driving the economy. pandemic, air pollution Particulates from fossil fuels farm labor shortages, corporate price gouging. A world where droughts and floods regularly devastate crop yields These factors will only be made worse. ratchet up the cost of food.

The cost of animal products is the most painful thing for meat-eaters. outpacing Vegetables and fruits. But vegetarians needn’t look so smug. Record-breaking floods threatening China’s grain harvest and Russia’s unconscionable blockade Ukrainian wheat exports are causing the price of staples such cereals to rise as well.

There is an answer to the price spikes that have occurred in the produce aisle as well as the meat fridge. It’s in the lowly legume.

Beans will need more support from the US government to be able to thrive on American farmland, and in American stockpots. The agriculture sector requires a lot more help right now. Bean New Deal — large scale investment in legume production, and a snazzy brand campaign to boot.

Beans are a staple in many diets around the world. They’re rich in protein, use far less water and land than other crops, and even act as a natural fertilizer to replenish the soil they’re grown in. The United Nations went so far as to call pulses, a legume’s dry seed, the “food of the future” because of their low carbon footprint and high nutritional value.

But a sustainability scorecard won’t be enough to convince American farmers to plant more beans. Insurance companies that specialize in agriculture predict a predicted increase in insurance premiums. decline up to 15 percentComparatively to last year, bean acreage has increased by 5%. This is another result of climate change: As the West’s drought Farmers must weigh which crops will make the most profit as this reduces the soil available for tilling. Dry edible beans, the kind you’d use to cook a nice casserole, don’t usually fetch the same prices as other farm commodities. Although legumes are often less expensive than other farm commodities, this makes them less attractive for planters.

That is, unless the government steps in to incentivize bean growth for the benefit of the planet and for consumer’s pocketbooks.

The federal government’s most powerful tool to influence what Americans eat year after year is agricultural subsidies. Since 2015, the feds has spent $119 billion The subsidies are used to support farmers of five crops, namely corn, soybeans wheat, cotton, rice, and wheat. These subsidies help farmers weather freezes and droughts — increasingly intensified by climate change — and ensure a healthy supply of domestic crops to the market.

But Jefferson’s agrarian ideal, this is not. Many subsidies go to the harvesting. enormous monocultures at factory farms — from 1995 to 2020, 78 percent of the $187 billion the federal government dished went to The top 10% of farms. These monocultures drain soil of its nutrients — increasing the use of fertilizer, which pollutes local waterways with nitrogen — and diminish The crop’s genetic variability makes it vulnerable to pathogens. The government should not finance environmental degradation by corporate titans. little guy.

What’s more, because farm commodities like corn and soybeans are often used for livestock feed, subsidies for monocultures are effectively subsidies for the meat industry. Animal agriculture is already a nightmare show. labor abuses unimaginable cruelty. The days of the $4 Big Mac are gone. are overAs it is, so it should be. The government should reduce spending on meat and give farmers money to plant beans.

Getting more beans to the market, of course, doesn’t mean that consumers will buy them. Let’s be honest: Beans have an image problem. The United States experienced an uptick Bean sales increased in the early days of the pandemic. This is likely due to beans’ reputation as essential for emergency preparedness. But that’s just it — beans are reliable, not sexy. “Hard pass,” an 18-year-old told The New York Times at Covid’s onset. Imagine her looking at a can of Garbanzos.

The government could do a lot more for the bean’s virtues. California Milk Processor Board once used The state’s iconic slogan was used to boost milk sales. The Department of Agriculture gave Uncle Sam a wife during the Great Depression and a radio program. to share easy, nutritious recipes with the public. It’s possible to imagine the same 18-year old discovering a delicious bean recipe on TikTok.

Bean science can also make foods made of beans more delicious. Much of the corn and soybeans that the country grows isn’t meant for human consumption. It’s meant to fatten up animals for human consumption. The plants are cultivated to maximize crop yield at the expense of protein content. According to researchers, protein content is crucial for creating the perfect meat replacement. new report From Wired. Beans could very well become the future of meat with more research and development in legume breeding.

The United States is losing ground to other countries in the area of centralized efforts to increase production of alternative proteins, including beans, right now. While China, Israel, and other countries invest billions in the search for the food of the future the US spends billions to support an industry that is responsible. 20 percent of global emissions. That’s the argument that Alex Smith and Ariel Ron make in a recent white paper. Their solution? Boosted federal investment in commercial alternative proteins, coordination nodes among agencies and industry, as well as additional university research into the science and art of bean breeding.