Co-Chair of Congressional Cranberry Caucus Calls on USDA to Support Wisconsin Industry
Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a strong supporter of Wisconsin’s agriculture economy and co-chair of the Congressional Cranberry Caucus, today led a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, advocating for Wisconsin cranberry growers, who in 2013 produced over half of the nation’s crop and were the top cranberry producers in the country for the 19th consecutive year.
“Wisconsin produces more cranberries than any other state. In a state that depends on agriculture to support hundreds of thousands of jobs and communities small and large, it’s essential that we provide our growers with the tools and resources they need to continue to succeed,” said Baldwin. “And that means supporting them when the markets are tough. I will continue to advocate for efforts that strengthen Wisconsin’s agriculture industry and grow our rural economies.”
The letter asks USDA to consider a purchase of cranberries to mitigate the impact on growers at no cost to the taxpayer. The program is funded through customs receipts and the products purchased are provided to food pantries, which distribute the products to families in need. In addition, the cranberry industry has also worked with agency staff at the Food and Nutrition Service to expand the availability of cranberry products in school food programs through the addition of sweetened, dried cranberries to the Foods Available List.
“The cranberry industry is facing an oversupply of berries, which has severely impacted the commodity price. Wisconsin growers produce the majority of the world’s cranberry crop, so this is a top concern in our state,” said Tom Lochner, executive director of Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association. “We are grateful to Senator Baldwin and the rest of the cranberry caucus for their efforts to support the cranberry industry in Wisconsin and nationwide.”
The WSCGA today applauded Senator Baldwin for her leadership to serve as co-chair of the Congressional Cranberry Caucus. The Congressional Cranberry Caucus was created in 2012 as a platform to educate members of Congress, their staffs and federal agencies about cranberry production across the U.S. The caucus aims to address conservation, environmental and nutritional benefits and concerns, along with issues surrounding the international trade of cranberries. Currently, the caucus is focused on securing USDA purchases of cranberry products to help offset an oversupply of the fruit. The caucus has also supported industry efforts to include more cranberry products in school lunch programs.
According to a University of Wisconsin report, Wisconsin’s cranberry industry has an annual economic impact on the state of $300 million and supports 3,400 jobs from its 21,000 acres of cranberries grown in 20 counties in central and northern Wisconsin.
The letter can be found here.