Efforts to create a Research and Promotion program for fresh-market blackberries (similar to those for red raspberries, to left, and that for blueberries), have been put on hold by the Blackberry R&P Working Group and the NARBA Executive Council, after a preliminary review of the draft proposal by the USDA/Agricultural Marketing Service required major revisions to the proposed board structure. In its review, USDA-AMS clarified that it requires that the board represent production as closely as possible. Since more than an estimated 70% (by quantity/weight) of the fresh market blackberry industry is composed of imported berries, a similar proportion of the board would need to be composed of importers and foreign producers. In the draft proposal, domestic producers made up a majority of the board. Although the purpose of an R&P program is to grow the industry and benefit all producers, a number of domestic growers, who had been hoping that the program would give a particular boost to domestic producers, said that they could not now support the program with this structure. As broad support across the industry would be a requirement for proceeding toward a referendum, the effort has been tabled.
There is wide agreement that the process of working on an R&P has already had many positive effects, bringing different segments of the blackberry industry together and developing dialogue toward common goals. The efforts have certainly helped develop NARBA’s connections with the blackberry industry across the country and in Mexico.
Discussions are continuing on other ways the industry can advance these goals outside a R&P program: Can funds be raised through a voluntary program? Would a time-limited program focusing on consumer/buyer education and promotions on the many health benefits of blackberries and/or supporting health benefits research have wide support? Can the existing structures of NARBA and our Research Foundation be vehicles for this kind of effort? Stay tuned for further developments. Contact NARBA if you have comments or ideas.