Drought, High Costs Plague Cranberry Farmers

September 28, 2016 01:32 PM

Massachusetts cranberry growers are encountering several challenges: rising production costs, decreasing crop values, and drought that threatens to leaves farms without enough water for harvest. 

The drought is the worst in decades, threatening to make it harder for farmers to flood bogs for the harvest that just began.

“As I see it, if we don’t get a good rainstorm or a good several rainstorms, we will not be able to harvest,” said Steve Ward, a cranberry grower.

Commercial cranberry production on Cape Cod and Massachusetts has been happening for 200 years. While juice and sauce sales have leveled off, but dried cranberries are popular. 

Cranberries are king in Massachusetts, even though Wisconsin and Quebec now produce more of the Thanksgiving staple. 

Farmers are worried about covering costs as harvest is underway. 

“Right now we’re dealing with a surplus and low commodity prices,” said Matt Beaton, a cranberry grower. “Every operation has a different set of challenges.” 

Ward says he gets close to $11 per barrel of cranberries, but production costs often exceed $30 per barrel. This isn’t enough to stop him from farming. He hopes for sweeter times for the bogs that have been around for two centuries.

“It’s a thought every day whether i should exit or not, but my gut feeling is that if you take a bog out of production, it’s never coming back into production,” said Ward.

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