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AGRICULTURE: Murray, Cantwell, Kilmer, Herrera Beutler Applaud USDA Cranberry Purchase

Nov 24 2014

Washington is home to 110 cranberry farms, 1,700 acres of farmland

Delegation Members wrote letter to Sec. Vilsack supporting the purchase last week

WASHIGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer and Jaime Herrera Beutler applauded an announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approving up to $55 million nationwide to purchase up to 68 million pounds of surplus cranberry products, a move that will provide stability to Washington state cranberry growers.

Last week, the delegation members sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting the USDA purchase. According to the Cranberry Marketing Committee, there are 110 farms in Washington state on 1,700 acres of farmland supporting approximately 165 direct jobs and $8 million in local revenue. The purchase will be made under USDA’s Section 32 program, which provides funds for USDA to purchase surplus foods from farmers for use in USDA food and nutrition programs.

“As you know, in the states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin cranberry production is not only important to the many family farming operations, but critical to the local and state rural economies they support,” the Delegation Members wrote in the letter.  “In these states, the industry provides significant jobs, at both the farm level and throughout the region. A successful Section 32 purchase of cranberry products will directly assist these families and regional economies in weathering the impact of the aforementioned factors on cranberry commodity prices.”

Washington state is the 5th largest producer of cranberries in the United States, and is expected to produce 162,000 barrels this year, which is an increase of 10,000 barrels from 2013. The state has been seeing consistently higher yields due to favorable weather conditions in cranberry-growing areas.

Full text of the letter below:

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

We are writing in support of the recent request by U.S. cranberry growers in our states for Section 32 purchases of surplus cranberry products including cranberry concentrate, cranberry sauce, dried cranberries, and related processed products.  With record crops over the past three years and inventories at all-time records, we are hopeful that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can approve significant Section 32 purchases in Fiscal Year 2015 for distribution to appropriate USDA food and nutrition programs. 

The industry has taken very aggressive measures over the past year to reduce existing inventories through market promotion and development activities. There is broad consensus that additional actions by USDA are needed to help address crop inventories and supply, which continue to vastly exceed the rate of growth in sales. According to recent projections by the Cranberry Marketing Committee, an expected 30 percent increase in inventory, amounting to 7.5 million barrels (750 million pounds) of cranberries, will be carried into the 2015 crop year. This inventory represents 90 percent of projected yearly sales and will place continued pressures on cranberry commodity prices, which are the lowest that they have been in nearly 15 years.  Given the increase in production over the past three years, the projected 2014 crop—which is anticipated to be the second largest crop in history—and the continued growth of the industry outside of the U.S., the cranberry industry has requested that USDA consider a purchase that would remove approximately one million barrels of cranberries from inventory. 

As you know, in the states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin cranberry production is not only important to the many family farming operations, but critical to the local and state rural economies they support. In these states, the industry provides significant jobs, at both the farm level and throughout the region. A successful Section 32 purchase of cranberry products will directly assist these families and regional economies in weathering the impact of the aforementioned factors on cranberry commodity prices.

We appreciate your ongoing support and look forward to working with you and the Agricultural Marketing Service to ensure the concerns of the industry are given every appropriate consideration.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance, and thank you in advance for your attention to our request.