Blackberry R & P Program Q&A

NARBA has supported ongoing efforts by growers over the last few years to set up a federal Research and Promotion program (R&P) for blackberries, providing administrative support for these efforts. However, as of early 2018, work on this proposal has stalled, due to lack of support from some key segments of the industry. Efforts are now underway to develop a program of voluntary donations specifically targeted towards blackberry health benefits research. For more information, contact Darcy Kochis, Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission.

What is a Research & Promotion Program?  

A Research and Promotion program (R&P) is a commodity program funded by assessments. The programs are authorized by federal legislation, voted on by the industry, and overseen by USDA.

Examples include the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and National Processed Raspberry Council. Other fruits and vegetables with R&P programs include avocados, peanuts, potatoes, and mushrooms.

Research, information programs, and promotion can all be funded through an R&P program.

Health benefits research is one form of research of particular interest for the proposed blackberry program.

How would a blackberry Research & Promotion Program be created?
A lot of work has already been done. In 2010-2012, a Blackberry R&P Working Group, composed of producers and marketers from across the industry, developed a draft proposal and presented it to grower groups across the country. The group also successfully petitioned the U.S. International Trade Commission to create new import codes specifically for blackberries (a necessary step before assessing imported fruit).  Additional work on a proposal proceeded through early 2018. The project was then tabled, due to lack of consensus on several aspects and the market dynamics at the time.  

If a proposal were finalized, it would be presented to USDA, which would administer a referendum of producers and importers.

How would assessments work?
Both domestic and imported berries would be assessed, and blackberry imports into the U.S. would pay their fair share of the cost of building blackberry markets.

In the current proposal, both fresh-market and processed berries would be assessed. A threshold of 30,000/lbs of marketed fruit has been suggested.

Assessments would be collected by first handlers or through mandatory assessments collected by U.S. Customs.

An assessment rate of a one cent ($.01) per pound on fresh-market berries (approximately 4.5 cents per flat of half-pint equivalents) is proposed. For processed berries, the proposed rate is half a cent ($.005) per pound.

At these rates the program would raise between $1.5 and $2 million annually for research and promotion.

How would the program be governed?
A Board or Council would be created that represents the participating growers and importers, in the various regions and segments of the industry. Industry would nominate candidates and alternates, who would be approved by USDA.

What could I do to help?

  • Participate in the ongoing discussions about the program’s creation and authority. With the R&P efforts currently suspended, if you’d like to see some other structure for promotion and research for the industry set up, speak up! Ask questions. Find out whatever you need to know about these efforts so you are comfortable they are moving in the right direction. Attend grower meetings. Volunteer to contact others. Share information. If you are a grower, tell your marketer that you support an R&P program or urge them to contribute to alternative programs.