Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Face Economic Challenges Despite Record Harvest

Industry Looks To International Exports For The Future

Morry Gash/AP Photo

Wisconsin cranberry growers continue to face economic challenges despite last year’s record harvest.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wisconsin produced 6.13 million barrels of cranberries in 2016. That’s a 26-percent increase from the previous year.

But the problem for growers is making a profit off of the fruit.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“Right now, the commodity price for cranberries is well below the cost of production,” said Tom Lochner, executive director of the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association. “We have a lot of growers here in Wisconsin and across North America that are experiencing some financial difficulties with those lower grower returns.”

Lochner said cranberry juice sales have been flat to declining over the last few years, while growers in the U.S. and Canada have worked to increase yields. So stocks of cranberries have increased more quickly than the industry can grow demand for the fruit.

It isn’t economically sustainable and as a result growers feel the pressure to transition out of the business,” Lochner said.

But some growers are cutting costs or borrowing with the hope that international exports could turn things around.

Lochner said the U.S. currently exports around 35 percent of the nation’s cranberries. But he said that number continues to grow, as the industry finds new buyers for cranberry juice and dried fruit.