Message from the Chairman
by Eric Pond, Chairman, Oregon Blueberry Commission
With a hesitant sigh of relief I am enjoying the fall. Fall in Oregon
is a great time to reflect and refocus. This season has seen many
positives – good yields, higher prices, adequate labor and
an endeared consumer. The hesitation stems from some very large
unresolved challenges – labor, the economy, trade tariffs
and the long list of unknowns.
The positives: I always like to start here since it seems to make
the challenges more attainable. Oregon is forecasting 60 million
pounds this season. From discussions with many of you it appears
we will be very close to that number. Much “new” is
happening in our industry. All across the state we are seeing the
first harvest on fields planted in recent years. New varieties are
being packed and shipped. There are not many industries that are
experiencing so many records, increased production, growing consumption
and a positive bottom line.
The cool spring and the ensuing delayed harvest start brought a
challenge for building labor crews. Many farm laborers were still
harvesting other early season fruit. The issue worked itself out
and soon there were ample crews busy harvesting across the state.
Blueberry consumers were out in force this season eating the berries
grown in our great state to their heart's content. We can all be
proud of the berries we grow in Oregon; they are among the sweetest
and freshest anywhere in the world. We have much to be thankful
for this season. I continue to be amazed at the growth in consumption.
The eat-ability of blueberries and the enjoyment they bring connects
our product across all generations and all income groups. Research
continues to identify new health benefits and confirms the multitude
of reasons to eat this highly functional food.
The challenges: There are several challenges that have been holding
our attention over the last few years. Among these concerns are
labor, supply-demand, new pests and the unknown. It has been some
time since we were not concerned with an adequate supply of authorized
workers to care for the berries we grow. The issue has been dominating
the conversation for years. As an industry, we must work closely
together to reach a solution that will provide a positive outcome
to everyone. This might be a lofty goal, but the negative impact
this could have if handled poorly will affect everyone. Please get
involved in the discussion - we can all do something.
With new export markets opening and record consumption in the US
driving prices higher, we have to be concerned with the price point
at which we can sustain the increase in production. We need new
product development, new uses and access to foreign markets. The
tariff situation for U.S. berries in many foreign markets is disproportionate
to other countries. Much work needs to done to create a more equitable
situation for US berries.
New pests continue to invade our growing space and stronger regulations
deplete the tools in the box. The research and development of tools
will need to be accomplished at an ever increasing pace while cutting
time. We need new solutions and we need them now. Addressing the
knowns is such a tall list that we will all be very busy, and from
experience there will always be the unknowns.
As we enjoy fall and soon winter, I feel blessed. I work with some
of the best people in an industry that has a bright future despite
the challenges. I produce a great product which I enjoy eating.
What more could one ask for? I hope all of you had a great season
and are now enjoying the slower pace. In this time of reflection,
I am also reminded of all the great friends and family who contribute
so much to this great industry. Blessings to you all.
Message from the Chairman
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