Oregon cranberry growers are expected to reap a record crop, while Washington farmers will have their largest harvest in a decade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted Thursday.
Across the U.S., cranberry farmers in five states, already sitting on a price-deflating surplus, will harvest 8.41 million barrels, a slight increase of 12,700 barrels over last year, the USDA forecasts.
Strong recent harvests in the U.S. and Canada have created a cranberry surplus, which the USDA has estimated will equal roughly 90 percent of annual sales a year from now. The surplus has driven prices below the cost of production for some farmers, particularly independent growers who don’t belong to the Ocean Spray cooperative.
Although the harvest isn’t expected to challenge the record-setting 2013 harvest of 8.95 million barrels, most cranberry-growing states will see production rise over last year, according to the USDA.
The USDA says Washington and Oregon growers have enjoyed favorable weather.
Oregon cranberry farmers, concentrated near the coast in Coos and Curry counties, will harvest an estimated 504,000 barrels, edging above last year’s record 500,000-barrel harvest. Each barrel represents 100 pounds.
“Every week they (growers) seem more encouraged by the crop,” said Don Kloft, Ocean Spray receiving station manager in Bandon, Ore.
Bandon cranberry grower Charlie Ruddell said he doubts Oregon’s harvest will set a record. Independent growers slightly outnumber cooperative members, and low prices have forced some to reduce investments in bogs or give up entirely, he said. “Some farms have been abandoned,” he said.
In Washington, where Ocean Spray members outnumber independent growers, the harvest is projected to jump from last year’s 156,000 barrels to 186,000 barrels. That would be the biggest crop since 2005, when farmers produced 187,000 barrels. The state record is 202,000 barrels set in 1994. Recent harvests have been much smaller.
Washington State University horticulturist Kim Patten, who heads the cranberry research center in Long Beach, said he agrees with the USDA’s forecast. “It’s in the ballpark; 180,000 to 200,000” barrels, he said. “It’s going to be a good crop.”
Growers who flood their bogs for harvest could face water shortages, however, he said. The U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday categorized the Long Beach Peninsula and Grays Harbor County, where cranberry growers are concentrated, as being in an “extreme drought.”
Water also will be needed to guard against early fall frosts, Patten said. “It’s getting serious for some of these growers,” he said.
Growers in Wisconsin, the county’s No. 1 cranberry state, reported that a cold winter damaged bogs. Still, most Badger State farmers expected an average or slightly better than average harvest, according to the USDA.
The agency projects Wisconsin’s harvest will be 5.028 million barrels, a fraction more than last year’s 5.022 million. Wisconsin’s mammoth 6 million barrel harvest in 2013 was a leading contributor to the cranberry surplus.
In Massachusetts, some farmers are optimistic, while some are battling insects, according to the USDA. The state’s crop is expected to be 2.11 million, a 44,000 barrel increase. Only New Jersey is expected to see production decline, from 652,000 barrels in 2014 to 585,000 barrels.
Nationwide in 2014, a barrel fetched an average of $29.50, down from $46.90 in 2012, according to the USDA.