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'Eat our peas': Pea growers react to Obama remark

July 11, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
(Susan Tusa/Detroit Free…)

Message to President Obama: give peas a chance.

That's the reaction of the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council to the president's urging of budget negotiators to make the difficult choices necessary to reach a "grand bargain" to raise the nation's debt limit.

"It's not going to get easier, it's going to get harder. So we might as well do it now; pull off the Band-aid, eat our peas," Obama said at a White House news conference.

A spokesman for the pea council said it wasn't interpreting the remarks in a negative context.

"We take President Obama's comment on the need to 'eat our peas' as a reference to the first lady's push to get all Americans to eat a more healthy diet as part of the Let's Move campaign," Pete Klaiber, the council's director of marketing.

"We know that if tasty and nutritious meals featuring peas are served more frequently in the White House and in the cafeterias of both Houses of Congress, it will contribute to a balanced diet, if not a balanced budget."

Klaiber added, "Eating more lentils couldn’t hurt, either."

In the increasingly sensitive world of politics and with Obama's reelection campaign under way, there's always a risk even in offhand remarks like the one the president made Monday.

Former President George H. W. Bush famously faced criticism for a rant against broccoli.

"I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm president of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli," he said at a March 1990 news conference.

A group of broccoli growers from California, among others, later delivered 10,000 pounds of the vegetable to then-First Lady Barbara Bush (see video below). Bush also found himself joking about the remark for the rest of his single term in office.

So does Obama have a pea problem? Mrs. Obama has given them a boost, growing snap peas in her vegetable garden, after all.

But a number of 2012 battleground states grow garden peas, including parts of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania. North Dakota, Montana and Washington state lead the nation in the number of acres of dry pea production.

Obama could make it up to pea growers at a meeting in September of the U.S. Pea & Lentil Trade Association in Stevenson, Wash.

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