National Berry Crops Initiative History
In early 2005, Dr. Thomas Bewick, National Program Horticulture Leader for USDA/CSREES, began gathering berry researchers, growers, and industry leaders together to discuss the 2007 Farm Bill and how it could impact berry crops in the United States. Over the next few months, a steering committee was formed and discussions concerned a plan of action and the need to set research priorities was held via multiple conference calls.
The group held its first workshop in October 2005, and a second in January 2006. The conferencing has continued, with many organizations, commodity commissions, researchers and growers joining the discussions and banding together to present a united message: to enhance the health and sustainability of the American berry crop industries.
Inaugural Assumptions – Published February 2009
Social and Cultural Environment
- National initiatives to combat obesity and other human health problems will lead to increased demand for and consumption of fruits and vegetables by U.S. consumers.
- The “baby-boom” generation is increasingly interested in consuming foods that are nutrient and nutraceutically dense and this interest will result in increased demand for berry crops.
- Consumers will demand higher quality berries at lower cost.
- Consumers will increasingly demand year-around access to berry crops, which might open U.S. markets to foreign supplies.
- Consumers will demand that products they consume be produced in a way that does not endanger the environment.
- Consumers will continue to demonstrate strong interest in minimizing chemical crop protectant use in food crop production
- Trends towards healthful convenience foods and slow food/gourmet food are potential opportunities for the berry crop industries.
- Consumers will continue to be concerned with food safety issues.
- The definition of specialty crops, as found in The Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2005, will drive federal policy regarding berry crops.
- Based on the 2004 Census of Agriculture, which showed that Specialty Crops had a slightly greater farm gate value that grain and oilseed crops (corn, soybean, wheat, barley, etc.), there is an opportunity to gain balance for specialty crops in farm bill legislation.
- The new USDA Food Pyramid, released in 2005, provides an opportunity to promote berry crop consumption.
- Some segments of the berry crop industries will continue to be affected by federal immigration and guest worker policy.
- Regulation of production and environmental issues will contribute to the further consolidation of farming.
- Agricultural water users and urban/suburban communities will likely seek legal recourse to address water pollution concerns.
- Agriculture will forge alliances with groups outside the industry to improve the environment.
- Government funding to support human health and nutrition research will increase.
Economic and Business Factors
- Foreign production of berry crops has the potential to negatively impact the berry crop industries.
- To be sustainable, a processing industry for berry crops is needed.
- Significant increases in sales from year to year will require strategic relationships within the berry crop industries.
- The cost of land in urbanizing areas will force berry crop producers into growing regions with less than ideal climatic conditions.
- Increasing labor costs will impact the industries.
- Increasing energy costs will impact the industries.
- Direct marketing and the development of value-added products will continue to increase in importance, especially for smaller producers and producers near urban areas.
Science and Technology
- New technologies will continue to increase productivity.
- For the potential increase in productivity to be realized and sustainable, Extension and technology transfer are essential.
- Information will be delivered through the internet and other electronic formats.
- The largest challenges facing the industry today have solutions in research and Extension.
- New technologies will be expensive but must be cost effective.
- Consumers will be more sensitive to environmental stewardship that reduces the use of synthetic chemicals.
- New insects, diseases and weeds will continue to interfere with efficient berry crop production.
- New limitations will be placed on the tools currently available for pest and nutrient management.
- Increased competition from foreign imports will require U.S. producers to be more efficient for the industry to remain sustainable.
- There will be increasing competition for resources, such as land, water, energy and capital, with the non-agricultural sector.
Inaugural Steering Committee
- Henry Bierlink, Executive Director, Washington Red Raspberry Commission
- David Bell, Executive Director, Wild Blueberry Commission
- Doug Buhler, Assoc. Director & Assoc. Dean, Michigan Agriculture. Experiment Station
- Bill Cline, NCSU, Southern Region Small Fruit Consortium
- Joe DeVerna, Manager, Agricultural Sciences
- Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc
- Jere Downing, Executive Director, Cranberry Institute
- Thomas Fretz, Executive Director, NE Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors
- Ron Fujii, Oregon Strawberry Commission
- Anne Geyer, President, North American Strawberry Growers’ Association
- Philip Gütt, Administrator, Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research, Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission, Oregon Strawberry Commission
- Dr. H. Michael Harrington, Executive Director, Western Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors
- Shawn Crocker , Executive Director, Florida Strawberry Growers Association
- Randy Honcoop, Research Chair, Washington Red Raspberry Commission
- Ervin Lineberger, President, North American Bramble Growers’ Association
- Nate Nourse, New England Vegetable & Berry Growers Assoc.
- Tom Peerbolt, President, Peerbolt Crop Management
- Sally Schneider, National Program Leader, Horticulture, Pathogens, & Germplasm, USDA/ARS, Beltsville
- Rick Tomlinson, Director of Government Affairs, California Strawberry Commission
- Mark Villata, Executive Director, North American Blueberry Council
- Debby Wechsler, Executive Secretary & Treasurer, North American Bramble Growers Assocation, Executive Secretary, North Carolina Strawberry Assocation
- Eric Young, Executive Director, Southern Regional Assoc. Ag. Exp. Sta. Directors