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Growers credit warm summer for near-record cranberry crop on bogs of Long Beach Peninsula

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LONGVIEW, Washington — An exceptionally warm summer has brought an exceptionally good crop to the Long Beach Peninsula's cranberry growers.

Yields are expected to be at record or near-record levels this fall, though that abundance and competition from afar may push prices down, growers and buyers say.

"We're going to have good crop and it could be a record but we're not sure until it's done," said Steve Kelley, manager for the Ocean Spray receiving station in Long Beach, a cooperative of area growers.

Kim Patten, horticulturist at the Washington State University extension office in Long Beach, said a second consecutive year of high yields could drag down prices for this year's crop.

"A lot of new ... (farms) went in Quebec and Wisconsin, and that's saturated the market over the last four years," Patten said Tuesday. "We just don't have the same supply-and-demand balance, so prices have withered."

Some of last year's crop still is being sold off, but Ocean Spray projects that the 2013 harvest will fetch growers about $57 per 100-pound barrel. This year's crop is expected to earn $45 a barrel, or 45 cents a pound, said Malcolm McPhail, co-owner of CranMac in Ilwaco.

PHOTO: In this photo taken on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, Long Beach Peninsula cranberry grower Malcolm McPhail steers his mechanical beater through the flooded bogs of his CranMac farm in Ilwaco., Wash. The beater knocks the ripe berries off their vines so they float to the surface making a sea of red before they are collected to be loaded on trucks for the trip to the Ocean Spray receiving station on the peninsula. An exceptionally warm summer has brought an exceptionally good crop to the Long Beach Peninsula's cranberry growers. (AP Photo/The Daily News, Bill Wagner)
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, Long Beach Peninsula cranberry grower Malcolm McPhail steers his mechanical beater through the flooded bogs of his CranMac farm in Ilwaco., Wash. The beater knocks the ripe berries off their vines so they float to the surface making a sea of red before they are collected to be loaded on trucks for the trip to the Ocean Spray receiving station on the peninsula. An exceptionally warm summer has brought an exceptionally good crop to the Long Beach Peninsula's cranberry growers. (AP Photo/The Daily News, Bill Wagner)

"We're going through a dip (in prices) now. We went through one in 1998 that lasted for four or five years, so we're hoping that will turn around," McPhail added.

McPhail farms 122 acres of cranberry fields with the help of his wife, Ardelle, and their son Steve. Despite the potential for lower prices, the couple is optimistic about the quality of their crop.

"We had such a beautiful summer and growing season, and it's very nice to get the berries sized up," Ardelle McPhail said.

Malcolm McPhail and Patten both noted that as of a month ago, growers were worried about the dry summer squelching water supplies needed for harvesting, but stormier weather in late September recharged water supplies.

Those extra inches of rain, combined with water from the nearby Black Lake, give the McPhails plenty of water to flood the bogs before blasting the cranberry bushes to loosen the fruit.The fruit is then skimmed off the surface of the water.

CranMac is one of 30 growers participating in the Ocean Spray harvest this year, along with 70 growers in Grayland, Washington The bulk of the berries are sent to Portland or Aberdeen to be frozen and used for juice or Craisins. McPhail said that cranberries from the peninsula only make up 3 percent of Ocean Spray's national harvest. Wisconsin, Oregon and New Jersey all produce more than Washington state.


Information from: The Daily News, http://www.tdn.com

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