US Senator Herb Kohl announced that the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) will purchase $18 million in cranberry products in addition to other commodities. The purchase will help bolster federal food and nutrition assistance programs as well as help eliminate the high inventories in certain commodities, which have led to low prices that farmers and ranchers are receiving for those commodities. According to the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association, the cranberry industry annually contributes $350 million to Wisconsin's economy and sustains approximately 7,200 jobs.
In March, Kohl and other members of Congress sent a letter to the USDA urging them to consider using their purchase authority to help eliminate the cranberry surplus. Over the past two years the cranberry industry has experienced record harvests that have led to significant inventories and low prices for farmers.
"Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries in the nation and cranberry farmers are struggling to cope with low prices due to surplus inventories. This purchase will help eliminate cranberry inventories while supplying healthy foods for federal food and nutrition assistance programs," said Kohl the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
The USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchases a wide variety of food products annually to support a number of food and nutrition assistance programs including the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). According to USDA, the purchase announced today will include up to $40 million of beef products; $2 million of lamb products; $5 million of catfish; $32 million of fresh and processed apple products; $1.1 million of blackberries; $21 million of red tart cherries; $18 million of cranberry products; $5 million of dried figs; $9.3 million of dried plums; $18 million of potatoes; $7 million of strawberries; and $3 million of fresh and canned pears.