USHBC to Discuss Assessment Hike
by John Schmitz

In March of 2012, at its annual meeting in San Francisco, the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) will be discussing whether or not to seek USDA approval for an increase in the grower assessment, from $12 to $18 a ton.

“(The added funds, if approved) will be used mainly for promotions, but some will go for research,” said St. Paul, Oregon grower Doug Krahmer, USHBC treasurer and chairman of the finance committee.

A good chunk of the added promotional funds would go for export market development, said USHBC Executive Director Mark Villata. “We’re trying to open up China for fresh blueberries and expand fresh blueberry shipments to South Korea as well."

As for research, the added funds would go towards expanding health research, Villata said. “We’re moving into human trials.”

If the Council decides to ask for more funds, the petition would be posted by USDA in the Federal Register for comments. After the comment period, the buck stops at the Secretary of Agriculture’s desk as to whether or not the increase is granted.

According to Krahmer, USHBC’s annual budget is in excess of $4 million, which includes both domestic and import assessments as well as rollover funds carried over from the previous year.

While domestic assessments run around $2.1 million, import assessments, which are also assessed at the same $12 a ton, are around $1.4 million.
Eight to ten percent of the USHBC budget goes for administrative costs, while close to $3 million is devoted to marketing, which includes advertising, publicity and other promotional activities.

Close to $400,000 of the USHBC budget is devoted to research.
Krahmer said that as more and more fresh product comes into the U.S., assessments continue to rise. The biggest chunk of those imports comes from Chil

Krahmer went on to say that it’s been successes in the research sector, especially in anti-oxidant studies, that have laid the ground work for promotional activities, which focus mainly on the health benefits of eating blueberries.

Most of the research is carried out at the university level, with some being conducted in the private sector, Krahmer said.

Every grower who pays assessments is included in the membership of the U.S. highbush blueberry group, Krahmer said, with the 15- to 20-person council itself made up of state, regional and import representatives.
USHBC meets twice a year, in the spring and fall.


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