Eric Houghtaling: New Jersey’s Cranberry Crop Still Vital to Local Economies

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Man checking red ripe cranberries with fir needles.

TRENTON-New Jersey Agricultural and Natural Resource Committee Chairman, Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling visited the Rutgers Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry & Cranberry Research station in Chatsworth to see what goes on behind the scenes in New Jersey’s once-vital cranberry industry.  Although commercial cranberry farms in New Jersey have declined in recent decades, it is still an important Jersey crop and a $16 million industry in New Jersey.

“Thanksgiving is when we enjoy our cranberries,” Houghtailing said. “You really don’t realize all that goes into making that happen.”

According to the U.S.D.A, cranberry production and value decreased significantly in 2017, marking the lowest yield and price since the mid-2000s. The total used production was 196,000 barrels, with a value of $16,451,000. Blueberry production and value increased for the year, with blueberry prices reaching near highs of the mid-2000s and late 1980s. Growth in value outpaced increased production for the year. The blueberry harvest was estimated at 443,860,000 pounds, with a value of $83,788,000.

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The Rutgers research center’s mission is to ensure the continued production and availability of high-quality blueberries and cranberries through basic and applied research; minimize the use of pesticides in the culture of these two crops; maintain research programs to study the health benefits of phytochemicals in cranberries and blueberries; and to investigate causes and controls of diseases that affect blueberries and cranberries.

“There’s a lot of research that goes into not only increasing the size of the cranberries but also disease tolerance, mold and increasing the yeild,” Houghtailing said.

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