Weather conditions provide challenges for cranberry growersSubmitted: 10/17/2019
Story By Rose McBride

Weather conditions provide challenges for cranberry growers
THREE LAKES - Machines rolled through the marsh and berries went into bags at James Lake Farms in Three Lakes Thursday. 

"I would say we're on schedule with the harvest as we stand now," said James Lake Farms owner John Stauner.

That isn't always a given in the cranberry business. 

A long spring led to some problems for cranberry growers. 

"In July and August, we need warm weather to get the fruit to size up and grow," said Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association Executive Director Tom Lochner. "We didn't get that warm weather."

Lochner says this year hasn't gone as planned. Statewide the crop is down 10 to 15 percent. 

"Overall I think growers are trying to get the crop in and hoping for a better crop next year," said Lochner. 

While Stauner is back on schedule now, his marsh isn't immune to the weather problems affecting Wisconsin farms. 

"The fall has been wet again, so it's been a challenging growing condition for agriculture in general and cranberries as well," said Stauner. 

Stauner faces other challenges as an organic grower, one of only about half a dozen in the state. 

"We only use natural based inputs," said Stauner. "We do not use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers."

But the benefits outweigh any challenges, and Stauner produces a product that he is proud of. 

"We think that we're growing something that's healthy for people and we think we're doing it in a way that's healthy for the environment and land on which we're growing," said Stauner.

James Lake Farms packages fresh cranberries in eight and 12 ounce bags, as well as bulk boxes. About half of the farm's cranberries will be sold frozen. Most of Stauner's cranberries are sold domestically, but farmers who sell internationally have been caught in the U.S.'s trade war with China. 

About 35 to 40 percent of the country's crop is exported to other countries. 

Retaliatory Chinese tariffs on American goods, including cranberries, have impacted growers the past two years. 

"We had invested, as an industry, quite a bit of resources into that market and when the tariffs were put on, we saw that the sales did slow down," said Lochner. 

Lochner says Wisconsin growers are looking at other markets like India and the Middle East. 

In a recent U.S.-Japan trade agreement, Japan eliminated tariffs on U.S. cranberries. 

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