WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin announced the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to purchase an additional 3.8 million pounds of Maine wild blueberries to distribute to food banks and other charitable organizations across the country. Along with an earlier purchase made this year at the Delegation’s request, that would bring the total to 11.7 million pounds, amounting to an estimated $12.75 million for Maine blueberry growers.
“With the harvest getting underway in the weeks ahead, this news comes at a critical time for Maine blueberry growers,” Maine’s Congressional Delegation said in a joint statement. “Not only will they get financial help in recovering from low prices in 2014 and 2015, but they will also be able to make room for the incoming harvest. This is welcome support for our industry in Maine, which provides for more than 3,000 jobs in its peak season.”
In January, the Delegation asked the USDA to purchase surplus blueberries through its Bonus Buy program to help growers who have faced declining prices because of record crop sizes in 2014 and 2015. USDA answered in April by announcing that it would purchase up to $13 million of product.
USDA made an initial purchase in June of about 7.9 million pounds of berries at a cost of $8.6 million. Based on that price, the additional 3.8 million pound purchase is worth an estimated $4.14 million.
The Bonus Buy program supports the emergency surplus removal of commodities, which are then distributed to domestic food assistance programs.