Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin announced today that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved up to $10 million to purchase Maine wild blueberries after the Delegation requested the Department take action earlier this year. Bonus buys help protect American farmers from unexpected market conditions by purchasing surplus goods and distributing them to food banks and other charitable institutions.
“Maine’s wild blueberry industry has been an important part of Maine’s economy and culture for centuries. In recent years, however, the wild blueberry industry has faced increasing challenges from global oversupply of cultivated berries and steeply declining prices,” said Senators Collins and King and Representatives Pingree and Poliquin in a joint statement. "Earlier this year, we urged the USDA to provide relief to Maine growers through a bonus buy of surplus frozen wild blueberries, and we are pleased that the Department has agreed to take action. This investment to alleviate the supply issue, combined with the industry’s efforts to boost demand, will help create new opportunities for wild blueberry growers and support a bright future for this unique Maine crop.”
The price of frozen wild blueberries has dropped below the cost of production by as much as 60 percent in the last five years, creating an unsustainable situation for Maine growers. In February 2017, the Maine Delegation wrote to Erin Morris, the USDA’s Acting Deputy Administrator of the Specialty Crops Program, to express strong support for the surplus commodity purchase of frozen Maine wild blueberries. This bonus buy will help stabilize the future market and alleviate the disparity between supply and demand.
The funding for the emergency surplus removal of the Maine wild blueberries was awarded through the USDA’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program.