Nov 8, 2021
Blueberry industry votes to continue national research promotion program

The USDA announced Nov. 8 that U.S. highbush blueberry producers and importers approved continuing their national research and promotion program. Industry representatives voted in a referendum held Oct. 8 through Oct. 22, 2021, by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

In the referendum, 84% of producers and importers voting, who represented 93% of the volume of highbush blueberries voting in the referendum, were in favor of continuing the program. Over 50% of votes and over 50% of the volume voted were required for the program to continue.

To participate in the referendum, producers and importers had to produce or import at least 2,000 pounds of highbush blueberries and pay assessments during the representative period of Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, and must currently be subject to assessment under the program.

The Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order establishing the program requires USDA to conduct a referendum every five years to determine whether the industry was in favor of continuing the program. For the program to continue, producers and importers had to approve the program by a majority of producers and importers voting in the referendum, who also represent a majority of the volume represented in the referendum.

The blueberry research and promotion program is authorized under the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996.  The program was developed to administer an effective and coordinated program of generic promotion, consumer information and related research designed to drive consumption of highbush blueberries within the U.S and internationally.  The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council has administered the program since 2001.

Since 1966, Congress has authorized the development of industry-funded research and promotion boards to provide a framework for agricultural industries to pool their resources and combine efforts to develop new markets, strengthen existing markets and conduct important research and promotion activities.  The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides oversight of 22 boards, paid for by industry assessments, which helps ensure fiscal accountability and program integrity.

USHBC issues statement

In light of today’s announcement issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) that a majority of eligible producers and importers of record voted in favor of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC), the USHBC has shared an official statement:
“We’re thrilled that the blueberry industry has voted to continue the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council’s important work through the next five years. Thank you to all our growers and importers of record who took the time and effort to vote. With this new mandate of support, we will embrace the confidence you’ve placed in the council and use it to power the future growth of the blueberry industry. We’re excited for the collaboration ahead as we journey toward achieving our new vision of making blueberries the world’s favorite fruit.

“For the growers and importers of record who voted no, we appreciate you as well. We care about the success of all; our mission to grow consumer demand for blueberries includes supporting you, too, and strengthening your ability to compete in the global marketplace. We promise to continue to reach out, listen to your ideas and concerns, and use your feedback to improve and grow our programs.”

According to the AMS notice, 84% of producers and importers voting in the referendum, who also represent 93% of the volume of highbush blueberries grown, were in favor of continuing the program. This represents a 10% increase in producers and importers (and 13% more volume), of those who voted in favor of USHBC in 2016.

The USHBC was established in 2000 as a Research and Promotion Program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For over 20 years, the USHBC has helped grow the value of and sell more blueberries to people in the U.S. and around the world. Since its launch, the USHBC has been required to hold a referendum every five years, in which eligible producers are asked to vote to determine the continuation of the USHBC.

“Since joining the USHBC within the last referendum period, I’ve admired what the industry has worked together to achieve to date, and now am honored and humbled to be part of our journey for the next five years and beyond,” said Kasey Cronquist, president of USHBC since July 2019. “The future is bright for blueberries, and we’re looking forward to continuing to work on the behalf of our stakeholders to build upon and strengthen our demand-driving programs. Go blueberries!”

This year, the referendum took place from Oct. 8-22. Eligible producers who produce 2,000 pounds or more of highbush blueberries domestically, or eligible importers of record who import 2,000 or more pounds of fresh or processed blueberries, voted on the referendum. The referendum passes “if it is favored by a majority of producers and importers voting for approval who also represent a majority of the volume of blueberries represented in the referendum,” as stated in the Blueberry Promotion, Research, and Information Order. This two-part test means that both the number of votes and the majority of the volume must approve the continuation of the USHBC.

“Having many fellow growers join me in support of USHBC means a tremendous amount – it will be the fuel and motivation for council and committee members to take our industry to new heights,” said Shelly Hartmann, chair of the USHBC. “I’m also eager to continue listening and learning from growers, importers and all industry stakeholders as we work together, united under our vision to make blueberries the world’s favorite fruit.”

USHBC also recently announced details of the approved 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, which explains how USHBC will lead demand-driving programs based on shared resources, research and insights that inspire possibilities and sustain the profitable growth of the blueberry industry. The plan includes expanded, measurable programmatic goals and tactics for five strategic pillars: integrated marketing communications, health and nutrition, industry services, global business development, and innovation and technology. For more background, view this recent USHBC press release.

For more information about the USHBC, visit the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council page on the AMS website and on the council’s website, ushbc.blueberry.org.

 




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