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Maine calls for USDA to provide more support for blueberries

Blueberry harvesters collected about 57 million pounds of the berries in 2018. That was down nearly 11 million pounds from the previous year.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this July 27, 2012 file photo, wild blueberries await harvesting in Warren, Maine. A legislative committee is considering a bill in 2019 to expand the number of people who sit on the Wild Blueberry Commission, tasked with promoting and setting policy for the state's most important fruit crop. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine's agriculture commissioner is asking the federal government to use a new program to buoy the state's wild blueberry industry during a difficult time.

Blueberry harvesters collected about 57 million pounds of the berries in 2018. That was down nearly 11 million pounds from the previous year, and prices have been low. Maine Agriculture Commissioner Amanda Beal's asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture for help via its market facilitation program.

USDA launched the program last year to assist growers negatively affected by foreign trade retaliation. Beal says the program will provide more than $14 billion in direct payments to producers this year, but wild blueberries are not included in the program's list of crops.

Beal says Maine's blueberry growers are often overlooked by programs and "deserve this needed support."