April 24, 2020

Mass. Lawmakers Seek Federal Assistance for Cranberry Growers Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative William Keating (D-MA-09), along with Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Representatives Richard E. Neal (D-MA-01), James P. McGovern (D-MA-02), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA-08), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA-04), Katherine Clark (D-MA-05) and Lori Trahan (D-MA-03), wrote to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging the agency to provide direct, financial assistance to the cranberry industry struggling to keep workers on payroll and remain afloat financially amid the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. 

"While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten jobs and local economies across the country... it is critical that our cranberry growers have the resources they need to keep staff employed on local farms," the lawmakers wrote.

As of 2015, the value of Massachusetts' cranberry industry was $99.8 million and supported nearly 7,000 jobs. However, press reports have stated that, "Like many small businesses, farms could feel devastating effects of the pandemic" and that "farms and ranches that sell locally could see a decline in sales of as much as $688.7 million." While the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act included $9.5 billion for farmers, it is largely up to USDA to distribute it among livestock producers, specialty crop producers and those who sell at farmers markets.

Citing the projected economic losses for cranberry growers-as well as the industry's recent economic struggles due to overproduction and the impact of Chinese tariffs-the lawmakers urged Secretary Perdue to utilize all USDA programs to assist the domestic cranberry industry.

"Given the recent economic hardships of the cranberry industry, particularly in Massachusetts, we urge you to take action to ensure that the USDA considers the unique and dire situation of cranberry growers in the administration's economic response to COVID-19," the lawmakers continued.

In November, Senators Warren and Markey, along with Representatives Keating and Kennedy, wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urging him to explore new markets for American cranberry growers to compensate for China's 40 percent tariff on imported cranberries, which had cost the industry an estimated $42.8 million in losses over the past year.