By Karla Arboleda
On Oct. 25, the Florida Blueberry Growers Association (FBGA) hosted its annual short course and trade show. Researchers and growers joined the FBGA in sharing blueberry industry news.
HALL OF FAME
In addition to hosting a platform for updates in the Florida blueberry industry, the FBGA announced the first members of the new Florida Blueberry Hall of Fame. Brittany Lee, executive director of the FBGA, said members’ support for the association has led to recognizing important people in the industry.
The inaugural Florida Blueberry Hall of Fame class includes Paul Lyrene, Jimmy Miller, Ken Patterson, Ralph Sharpe and Alto Straughn.
“We inducted five members to the inaugural class, which just shows where we are as an association,” Lee said. “We’ve experienced growth and stability in the past, but we’re finally at a place where it warrants a hall of fame.”
FUTURE OF BLUEBERRIES
Lee and Mike Joyner, president of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, spoke to attendees about blueberry production volume as well as how the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement could affect specialty crop growers.
In 2019, Florida blueberry growers produced over 22.7 million pounds of blueberries, while Mexico produced over 53.8 million pounds of blueberries.
“Specialty crops have been left out of the USMCA very specifically, including blueberries,” Lee said, adding that Florida blueberry growers aren’t inclined to support the rewrite without certain guidelines. “There was a provision in the original draft that would have benefited specialty crop growers … that was taken out last minute as part of the negotiations.”
The FBGA has advocated for the Florida blueberry association and other commodities as the USMCA is still under consideration.
“We stand united with other specialty crops in Florida,” Lee said. “We’re not opposed to free trade, but what we’re advocating for is fair trade.”
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