National Editor Tom Karst I’m not keeping score, but there are growers commenting in both directions on the issue of an increase in the assessment for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, with some producers trying to make the case and others trying to break it. Comments are due by July 19.
The comment from Paul Zelenka is perhaps the most methodical that I saw in its support of the assessment increase, which will raise the rate from 0.6 cents per pound to 0.9 cents per pound, or from $12 to $18 per ton. The grower said he supports the increase “in order to generate additional funding to aggressively promote our blueberries and to take advantage of the growing scientific knowledge of the healthfulness of our product."
He rattles off several reasons that an increase makes sense:
• The current assessment rate has stood since 2000;
• Highbush blueberry acreage has growing from 71,025 acres in 2005 to 123,635 acres in 2012 – an increase of 74% in seven years;
• 2012 production of highbush blueberries was 589 million pounds, up 93% from 2005’s output of 305 million pounds;
• North American highbush production could reach 735 million pounds by 2015;
• Current per capita consumption of 36 ounces per person needs to be raised to 50 ounces per person by 2015 to keep pace with supply, an increase of 38%;
• Funding will allow continued research to health benefits, a big driver of purchases
Blueberry growers, of all fruit and veggie, producers, seemed blessed by booming demand and strong returns. Yet that doesn't constrain the criticism of the rate increase from some quarters.
Farmers are currently assessed at both the state and federal levels on blueberries. An increased fee will place further burden on an already struggling market. There is currently a surplus of frozen blueberries left in storage, and prices will most likely be down this year for blueberry growers. Therefore, I am against the hike in the assessment fee at this time.
Another gets even more worked up, irritated by the expense of the board's meetings: