State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
Cranberries are big business in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Rapids now boasts having the largest cranberry producing plant in the world.
Our cranberry business could be even bigger if the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and cranberry growers can come to an agreement on expediting the permitting process to transform as many as 5,000 acres into cranberry bogs. An economic study prepared this year by University of Wisconsin economists has concluded that if Wisconsin’s cranberry industry were to add 5,000 new acres, the state would gain 1,115 new jobs and see an annual income increase of $75 million.
The CEO’s of Ocean Spray Cranberries and Cliffstar Corporation, two large and significant buyers of Wisconsin cranberries, have been discussing speeding up the process with Governor Doyle and the DNR so that cranberry expansion can take place in Wisconsin. Failure to come up with an agreement could send the cranberry companies to seek land in Canada, taking all the jobs and income that go along with the expanded fruit production.
A greater global demand for cranberries has necessitated the call for more bogs. The United States is exporting 30% of its crop to places like the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, China, and South Korea.
Wisconsin is an ideal place to grow and harvest cranberries and expand production. The state understands the business and already has plants in operation. Canada has plenty of land to convert into bogs, but lacks Wisconsin’s knowledge of the industry and processing plants.
Cultivating cranberries is time-consuming. The time it takes from beginning work on the land to the actual harvest is usually about three years. Add on the two-year permitting process in Wisconsin and one can understand the concerns of cranberry companies who can’t wait that long to satisfy global demand.
What is the hang-up? Some portions of the land that would be included in the Wisconsin expansion contain wetlands. Environmental groups are worried the wetlands will be destroyed. The CEO’s of Ocean Spray and Cliffstar insist they will replace any wetlands converted into cranberry bogs.
There is not a state in the entire country that produces more cranberries than Wisconsin. The Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association reports the cranberry is the state’s number one fruit in both value and acreage, providing an annual $350 million boost to the state economy and 7,200 jobs in Wisconsin. The Association also says in order to meet the rising worldwide demand for cranberries, an additional 110 million pounds, or 5,000 acres of berries must be produced in the next 5-10 years.
Wisconsin has a golden opportunity to expand one of our most successful industries, create jobs, and benefit the state economy. The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune reports there is progress in talks between the state and cranberry executives. I urge the involved parties to come to a mutual agreement soon that will be in the best interests of all, especially Wisconsin’s lucrative cranberry industry.
This summer, I blogged that the Wisconsin blueberry is a superfood. The Wisconsin cranberry is also a superfood with many health benefits.