Published January 1, 2001 | January 2001 issue
The cranberry industry in central and northwestern Wisconsin is in a tailspin that would make even corn and wheat farmers believe they're the lucky ones. Thanks to rapid expansion and higher per-acre yields, a surplus of cranberries has made prices crash by 80 percent since 1997.
The glut of fruit has gotten so bad that that U.S. Department of Agriculture imposed a volume cap on the 2000 fall cranberry harvest. This generally meant growers could only sell about 85 percent of their cropat historically low pricesand required about 200 cranberry growers in Wisconsin alone to harvest and then dump 400,000 barrels of excess cranberries.
In October Congress approved $50 million in federal support-$20 million in direct cash payments to growers and $30 million worth of government purchases of juice concentrate or frozen fruit to winnow down surplus inventories.
—Ronald A. Wirtz