The new federal Farm Bill contains two provisions that are intended to boost consumption of chickpeas even more, along with their companion, so-called pulse crops peas and lentils.
Acreage devoted to chickpeas has exploded in the past decade in Washington and Idaho, which grow some two-thirds of the nation's supply. Chickpeas require little water, and that's a major plus in the dry region, Flansburg said.
“They work pretty well in our region,” he said.
In the Palouse region, which straddles both states, there are more than 150,000 acres producing chickpeas today, up from about 12,000 acres in 2000, said Todd Scholz of the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, the trade group for the nation's growers.
Retail sales of hummus increased to $250 million in 2013, up from $192 million in 2007 and just $5 million in 1997, said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who helped push the Farm Bill provisions on chickpeas.
It should get even more popular as school children are introduced to the food, she said. The bill includes a pilot program in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend $10 million over five years to purchase pulse crops to use in school breakfasts and lunches.
Pulse crops are cheap, and loaded with protein, fiber and other nutrients, Scholz said. Flours made from pulse crops can be added to breads, tortillas and pastas to enhance their nutritional value.