Federal Government to Make Good on Maine Blueberry Purchase Pledge
The U.S. government is spending up to $4.4 million to complete a plan to help Maine’s blueberry industry by buying surplus crop.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture had said in April it would buy up to $13 million in wild blueberries to help with falling prices and oversupply, but the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine says the USDA has spent only $8.6 million so far.
Blueberry commission executive director Nancy McBrady said her group requested that the USDA spend the rest of the money. A USDA spokeswoman said Wednesday that the agency is working to complete the purchase.
USDA’s purchase of blueberries could eventually impact prices to consumers, which have been lower in recent years of big harvests.
In Maine, wild blueberries are mostly harvested in the blueberry barrens of the state’s rural Downeast region, with major production ramping up in recent years in Washington County. High-bush blueberries are a smaller, but growing industry in Aroostook County.
The state has more than 44,000 acres of wild blueberries and it relies on the berries for about $250 million per year in economic value.