Sunday, March 9, 2014
From staff reports
The federal government will buy wild Maine blueberries for use in federal nutrition programs.
Workers harvest wild blueberries in July at the Ridgeberry Farm in Appleton. Maine is the country’s top wild blueberry state, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it intends to buy up to $16 million worth of wild Maine blueberries for federal food programs. (AP Photo / Robert F. Bukaty)
The Agriculture Department will buy up to $16 million worth of blueberries, which could help ease a drop in prices due to a bumper crop of the berries this summer.
"The USDA’s purchase will go a long way to stabilizing those prices and helping Maine growers recoup losses,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, who said growers have seen the price they received for blueberries drop by about 25 percent.
The Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine had asked the USDA to make the purchase earlier this year.
The department buys food that goes into school breakfasts and lunches; the Summer Food Service Program; the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations; the Commodity Supplemental Food Program; and the Emergency Food Assistance Program. USDA also makes emergency food purchases for distribution to victims of natural disasters.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine asked the government to make a timely decision on the request.
Michaud calls the USDA purchase "a win-win that will help address the needs of the industry as well as the nation's food programs."