Assessment Hike Tabled by USHBC

During the USHBC (U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council) annual meeting in San Francisco February 27 – March 2, Council members decided to table discussion on raising the national grower assessment from $12 to $18 a ton.

If passed, the additional money would have been used for research and promotion, said USHBC Finance Committee chair Doug Krahmer of St. Paul.

Several USHBC committees discussed the assessment hike before it was passed on to the general Council for disposition, Krahmer said. The USHBC promotions committee, which passed the motion unanimously, passed another motion stipulating that the general Council would have to give the hike a thumbs up unanimously before passing it along to the USDA for consideration.

Upon Council discussion, “There were at least two people who said they would not be able to support it,” Krahmer said. It was then tabled.

Will the assessment hike be revisited? “Not necessarily,” Krahmer said, (but) “It could be brought up again at any full Council meeting." The next USHBC meeting is in St. Louis in October 2012.

Krahmer said that the USHBC promotions committee was hoping for the assessment hike, and that it had already laid out a $1 million-plus program dependent on the additional funds.

The move to increase the blueberry assessment began about two years ago, Krahmer said, with the first proposal taking it up to $24 a ton. “That was recommended to USDA (which has to okay the hike based on a public comment period).”

Krahmer said that in the initial comment period letters in favor of the assessment hike from groups representing many growers, such as the Oregon Blueberry Commission, were given the same weight as individual grower comments. “The next time we do it, we’ll encourage growers to write individual letters.”

Feelings about the assessment hike are mixed throughout the country. While the West Coast is “the strongest supporter,” Michigan growers are pretty much evenly split over the issue, Krahmer said. New Jersey, another strong growing region, does not favor the increase since it recently increased its state assessment.

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