Washington's first plantings of blueberries were established over seventy years ago. During the early years when blueberries were getting established in the state, there were very few processors who would take blueberries and very few growers shipped fresh. Most of the growers had small acreages and they tried to sell most of their fruit directly from the farm. At the same time diseases were getting started in the blueberries and they needed some way to help finance research and in addition, it was a new fruit for people and they needed some way to promote the use of them. Thus the commission was formed.
The Washington Blueberry Commission was formed in 1969 under a marketing order from the Director of Agriculture. It was established under the Washington Agricultural Enabling Act of 1955. All growers in the state voted unanimously to form the commission and six commissioners were nominated to establish the commission and one-quarter of a cent ($.0025) per pound was assessed on each years crop harvested. With the increase of acreage the assessment was in increased to $.0075 per pound and then in 2001 it was decreased to $.0040 per pound ($8.00 a ton) when the National program was voted in at $12.00 a ton.
At present we have an estimated 13,000 acres in production in the state with an annual budget of approximately $500,000. 80% of this budget goes toward research, promotion and export marked development with the remaining 15% going towards administrative costs. Our budget will continue to grow with the increase of new acreage being established. Approximately 55% of production is in western Washington and 45% in eastern Washington. About 20% of Washington Blueberry production is organic. Approximately 75% of Washington production is processed and 25% is for the fresh market.
The commission meets once each quarter to conduct business and at the spring meeting all growers are invited to attend and review the activities that have taken place in the industry. The budget for the year is also presented and two commissioners are elected for a three year term.
With the growth of the blueberry industry in the state, we feel fortunate that the commission was formed so many years ago. More growth and disease problems seem to come up and it has been a real help to have the funds available to do research and also promote the use of them. Blueberry consumption has increased over 50% in the last 10 years and the nutritional value in the blueberry has caught the public's attention.