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Cranberry Growers Approve Higher Fee To Help Fund Research, Marketing

Growers Will Continue To Pay 10 Cents Per Barrel Produced For Now

A western Wisconsin cranberry bog. Photo: Maureen McCollum/WPR News.

Cranberry growers narrowly passed a referendum that could one day raise self-imposed fees that help market their fruit.

Wisconsin cranberry growers currently pay 10 cents per barrel to help fund research, education and marketing. The industry’s farmers recently voted to increase that fee to as much as 25 cents per barrel within a few years, in a referendum that passed with 51 percent of growers in favor.

The quasi-governmental Wisconsin Cranberry Board decides how to spend this money. Board member and cranberry producer Ed Grygleski said growers have had a tough year economically, so it will likely be a few years before the board decides to raise the fees.

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“With the way the independent price is so low, we’re below operational costs,” said Grigieski. “We recognize that and we certainly have no appetite to increase any sort of spending before that corrects itself somewhat.”

The increase still has to be approved by the governor and Legislature.

Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association executive director Tom Lochner said the changes could fund more research on the fruit’s health benefits, which could increase demand.

“Because of increasing costs to conduct research, especially on the crop-side at (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and growers’ interest in increasing promotional activities, we haven’t been able to fund health research at levels we have in the past,” said Lochner.

The program generated $540,000 this year.