Blueberry growers discuss farm bill priorities

Blueberry growers say specialty crop programs in the farm bill are vital to remaining competitive.

Michigan Blueberry Advisory Committee President Chad Reenders tells Brownfield the Tree Assistance Program in the legislation is widely used by Michigan growers to renovate blueberry fields.

“With technology, we’re able to create a better blueberry, a bigger, crunchier blueberry for everyone to enjoy,” he says.  “This TAP program is a little bit of assistance to farmers.  It’s very expensive to tear out and replant a farm in Michigan—you’re looking at a five-year turnaround.”

He says growers would also like to see crop insurance maintained and increased funding for the Specialty Crop Initiative.

Reenders says Michigan has seen significant reductions in acres and transition is widespread as farmers face extremely high labor costs.

“There’s no one there to take over the farm or they just can’t run the costs enough to keep their farm running so they sell,” he explains.  “We’ve also seen with the TAP program farmers grinding up or removing old bushes and right now they’re in the process of replanting.”

He says growers are also working to stay competitive and offer better products to overcome import pressures.

Reenders was among a handful of growers in D.C. last week for the Blueberry Hill Climb.

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