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'Cranberry Caucus' Asking Vilsack to Make Large Purchase
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 11/28/2016

The USDA's recent purchase of dairy products to help boost milk prices has prompted lawmakers to make a similar request to help the nation's cranberry producers. A group of 17 members of Congress who call themselves the 'Congressional Cranberry Caucus' wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week, asking him to utilize Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1935 to buy a large shipment of the tart fruit.

"Cranberry growers have had an extraordinarily successful harvest and face difficult questions about destroying or dumping product as they manage this oversupply," the letter said. "With the help of a purchase, excess product can be put to good use through deliveries to food pantries."

Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is the co-chair of the group, which also includes Rep. Ron Kind from La Crosse. They say excess product can be put to good use through deliveries to food pantries. And such a purchase would be funded with customs receipts, rather than tax dollars.

"It is crucial to the health of our communities that the cranberry industry continues to thrive," Baldwin said. "As the industry works through this challenging time, we are encouraged they are working to expand markets and reduce this oversupply. As the effects of these steps unfold, we urge you to help to ensure market stability through a purchase, which will help farmers stay in business and provide nutritious products to families in need."

The lawmakers mentioned that unlike other commodities, producers of cranberries cannot rotate into another crop easily or cost effectively. The Cranberry Marketing Committee has also made substantial efforts to expand markets for cranberries both in the U.S. and in other countries, but more help is needed to help farmers weather this oversupply given the recent historic harvest, the letter stated.

The nation has about 1,300 cranberry farms, and the cranfood industry employees more than 11,500 workers.

The USDA last made a large cranberry purchase using Section 32 in 2013 when growers also had a bumper crop.

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