By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council is once again seeking an assessment increase.
St. Paul, Ore., blueberry farmer Doug Krahmer told the Oregon Blueberry Commission at a Nov. 13 meeting that the council voted unanimously in October to pursue an increase from $12 a ton to $18.
Krahmer said the unanimous support was surprising given that a proposal in 2009 to raise assessments from $12 to $24 a ton was contentious and was forwarded to USDA only by a narrow margin.
The USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, which monitors operations of the USHBC, denied that request in February of 2010.
Krahmer attributed the increased support this year to strong backing for research the council is funding.
Most of the increased revenue generated by the assessment increase will go toward funding research trials showing the benefits of blueberries on human health, Krahmer said.
Krahmer is chairman of the USHBC finance committee and one of two voting members on the council from Oregon.
USHBC recently approved a $4.7 million budget for 2013 that includes $1.1 million for research and $2.5 million for promotion.
The $4.7 million includes carryover of about $700,000.
About $2.5 million of the $4 million in assessments the council anticipates collecting this year comes from domestic producers. An additional $1.5 million is generated from importers, who also pay the assessment.
If approved by USDA, the assessment increase is expected to generate an additional $1.33 million.
Krahmer didn't know when the USHBC will begin taking public comments on its request. USHBC administration had not returned a phone call as of press time.