The Blueberry Industry Rallies Together In Washington, D.C.


The Blueberry Industry Rallies Together In Washington, D.C.

For the first time ever, the NABC hosted an industry “Hill Climb” in Washington, D.C., calling on Representatives and Senators to sign onto resolutions declaring July as “National Blueberry Month” and sharing NABC’s other key policy concerns.
Over 120 NABC members attended the first-ever D.C. Hill Climb
bringing policy concerns to their legislators on behalf of the industry.
Photo by Ken Pak Photography.

The day-long event included over 120 members of the NABC who visited 70 offices on Capitol Hill, holding 27-member level meetings; a meeting with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue; and concluding with a well-attended “Red, White and Blueberry” reception. 

Secretary Sonny Perdue took time to speak to the NABC delegation at the USDA offices. 
Photo by Ken Pak Photography.
“This was a first for our organization,” explained recently appointed NABC Chair Ken Patterson of Island Grove Ag Products in Florida. “And our members did a fantastic job, working together and raising the profile of our blueberry industry with lawmakers. Each and every meeting made a difference.”
Ken Patterson, incoming NABC chair (right), with Art Galletta of Atlantic Blueberry Company (left), pose with the newly signed proclamation by U.S. Secretary Sonny Perdue declaring July as National Blueberry Month.
Photo by Ken Pak Photography.

In addition to calling on members of Congress to support National Blueberry Month, delegations meeting with their members encouraged support for immigration reform, fair and favorable trade policy and prioritizing speciality crop program funding in the Farm Bill. 

“The response we’ve received from members and their staff has been outstanding,” shared NABC President Kasey Cronquist. “They loved hearing from our industry, and our National Blueberry Month resolutions enjoy bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. Everyone loves blueberries.”

From left to right: Alan Schreiber, executive director, Washington Blueberry Commission;
Rep. Rick Larsen, Bryan Sakuma, Sakuma Bros. Processing, Inc.; Bo Slack of Driscoll Strawberry Associates, Inc.;
Joanie Slack, Liesl Zappler and Kasey Cronquist, NABC president.
Photo by Ken Pak Photography.

In advance of the event, participants received advocacy training from Prime Advocacy and talking points from the NABC to help unite the blueberry industry’s voice on Capitol Hill. And on March 3 and March 4, the House and Senate introduced resolutions seeking to declare July National Blueberry Month. House Resolution 882 was sponsored by Congressmen Fred Upton (R-MI) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA). Senate Resolution 528 was sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, sponsor of the Senate Resolution 528
declaring July National Blueberry Month, met with her Michigan blueberry constituents.  
Photo by Ken Pak Photography.

“This is something we need to consider doing every year,” said NABC member Shelly Hartmann of True Blue Farms in Grand Junction, Michigan. “I was so encouraged by what we were able to accomplish by working together.”

Another Hill Climb participant, John Johnston, senior director of product leadership at Driscolls, added, “It was probably the best day we’ve ever had together as members of NABC. We discussed critically important industry issues directly with members of Congress, we lobbied for making July National Blueberry Month, and we built lasting personal connections with each other by working in small groups. It will be hard to top this day!”