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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Oregon Blueberry Commission • P.O. Box 3366 • Salem, Oregon 97302
Paid for by the Oregon Blueberry Commission, an agency of the State of Oregon.