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Cranberry growers taking advantage of faster permit system to expand bogs

At least two dozen Wisconsin cranberry growers could take advantage of a new, faster system of getting permits to expand their marshes.

That's according to the state growers' association, which struck a deal Tuesday with the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Growers say they need to expand to accommodate companies like Ocean Spray which is trying to meet a growing worldwide demand for cranberries.

State and federal agencies make sure those marshes don't hurt wetlands and that's why the permit system is required.

Under the new deal, growers who want to expand by 10 acres or less can get their applications reviewed in about one-third of the time it now takes.

Larger operations will get longer reviews.

Also, the deal lets growers file one application for both agencies. And it creates pre-application meetings where growers hear the government's concerns before they even apply.

Growers' association director Tom Lochner, Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association director, says the farmers' meetings could begin in early November, once a system is set up for preparing the applications.

Ocean Spray has asked Wisconsin growers to add 5,000 acres of cranberry marshes. If that happens, a University of Wisconsin study says it could add $75 million a year to the state's economy.