Huh? Oregon Blueberry Growers want Trade Deals?

April 08, 2015


Ron Wyden is getting pressure from Intel and Nike to approve fast track. But also (supposedly) blueberry growers. Which doesn't make sense.

This article in the Wall Street Journal reports on how the anti-Fast Track forces are trying to convince Senator Wyden (D-OR) to oppose making a deal with Senator Orrin Hatch. But I was curious about why blueberry growers support it.

So first I thought, are they net exporters of blueberries? The fact is the US is a net importer, more so each year.  According to the University of Florida ag extension service:

While the United States plays an important role on the international blueberry market as both exporter and importer, it is mainly a net blueberry importer.

The United States is the world’s largest blueberry importer, absorbing almost two-thirds of the global imports during the 2008–2010 period (FAOSTAT 2013b). US blueberry imports (fresh and frozen) more than doubled, from 54,022 tonnes in 2003 to 148,517 tonnes in 2012. During this same period, US fresh blueberry imports trended upward, from about 43 percent of the total in 2003 to about 65 percent in 2012 (USDA/FAS 2013).

So, my next question is whether the blueberry lobby represents the interests of the growers or, instead, the interests of the processors who like to import to keep the price down. This is the case with the pork and beef lobbies - the National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattleman's Beef Association - where the processors fund and control the organizations more so than the farmers and ranchers.

The fellow quoted in the WSJ article is Doug Krahmer. He is on the Oregon Blueberry Council and a member of the Farm Bureau. The Farm Bureau has long supported trade treaties even though our farm commodity export performance has not been improved by them. So, the conclusion from 30,000 feet, is that Krahmer is helping the Farm Bureau and got quoted in the WSJ article.

But the facts are that many TPP countries are substantial blueberry exporters. So Oregon blueberry farmers are shooting themselves in the foot by conveying support for Fast Track or TPP.

Because they will continue to lose domestic market share.

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