Too Many Cranberries? The USDA Will Buy Them

Whoever thought that producing too many cranberries would be a problem? This year, farmers were able to harvest more cranberries than the market demanded. The farmers were left with a lot of cranberries and no buyers. That is until the USDA stepped in.

Cranberries are deemed a super food. They are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants and are only 45 calories a cup. While cranberries pop up on almost every Thanksgiving table, there still was not a high enough demand this year.

Farmers were growing increasingly concerned with the amount of cranberries still left in their hands and, of course, concerned for their profit margins.

In 2013, there was a cranberry surplus that made the price per pound of fruit drop drastically. This price drop made it hard for farmers to produce at an sustainable level. According to the Wisconsin Rapid Tribune, in August, the USDA refused to cut production of cranberries to help reduce the surplus.

Thus, between last year’s surplus and the fruit grown this year, farmers were left with 1.6 billion pounds of cranberries, roughly 16 million barrels. The USDA buys cranberries every year, but this year will be a record. The government organization will spend an astounding $55 million on 680,000 barrels of cranberries. The purchase of the fruit will be under the Section 32 program established during the Depression to help support farmers and crop prices. The payment of $55 million will be coming from customs fees taken on imported goods.

Tom Lochner, Executive Director of the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers’ Association, sees the cranberry purchases as a win-win situation.

“We look at it as a win-win. Obviously, we hope (the purchase) translates into prices that become economically sustainable. An added benefit, access to a healthy, nutritious product they can incorporate into their diet.”

Wisconsin produces about two-thirds of the U.S. cranberry supply.

Capital Press reports that cranberry farms might not be paid until 2015.

“Ocean Spray growers receive payments as the cranberries are sold. Growers won’t receive the final payment for 2013 crops until June 2015, several months later usual. Ocean Spray projects the payments will amount to 45 cents a pound, down from 57 cents the year before.”

However, for independent cranberry growers in Washington, the buy-out does not solve all their problems. Cranberry growers not associated with Ocean Spray have only been receiving 10-15 cent per processed pound of fruit. Alan Devlin, in independent grower in Grayland, Washington, says that farmers in his state can’t produce the fruit for so little. He wants cranberry consumption to become a year-round activity, not just during the holidays, to drive up prices. For Devlin and other independent growers, the fresh market is more lucrative than selling their fruit to be processed into juice.

Those farmers that have too many cranberries sitting around in barrels are thankful to the USDA for the purchase.

[Image via commons.wikipedia.org]