Mar 7, 2016
Cranberry Industry Revitalization Task Force holds first meeting

A Cranberry Industry Revitalization Task Force, organized by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, recently gathered for the first time at the UMass Cranberry Station in East Wareham.cranberries

This multi-disciplinary group was created by the legislature and approved by the governor and is charged with investigating short- and long-term solutions to preserving and strengthening the commonwealth’s cranberry industry, according to a press release. The task force will examine methods to promote innovation in and the revitalization of the cranberry farming community, as well as potential strategies for growers retiring bogs.

The cranberry is the commonwealth’s number one food crop, comprised of 13,250 acres of producing bogs and more than 60,000 acres of additional support land, the press release said. Recent studies noted the multiplier effect on southeastern Massachusetts, finding the cranberry industry to provide nearly 7,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in revenue annually to the Massachusetts economy.

The task force is chaired by Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton and Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux. Joining them are three cranberry growers, a representative each from Ocean Spray Cranberries and the independent cranberry handlers, the director of the UMass Cranberry Station, as well as the commissioners of Energy Resources, Fish and Game, MassDEP and an agricultural economist. The task force is rounded out by six state legislators.

Members present were brought up to speed on the Massachusetts cranberry industry with a series of presentations by task force members and industry experts. The topics included the history of commercial cranberry cultivation in Massachusetts, crop statistics, key economic indicators, supply and demand numbers, the importance of cranberries to southeastern Massachusetts in terms of jobs, open space, tourism, and numerous environmental benefits, competition from other growing regions, the cost of production, needs for re-tooling bogs, growers leaving the industry, and more.

Members have now been divided into smaller working groups to better focus resources on identifying programs in three major content areas – retooling bogs, technology and innovation ideas and exit strategies for growers looking to retire some bogs, while others may leave the industry entirely. The task force will continue work throughout March.

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