WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Angus King and Maine’s 1st District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree are urging the federal government to purchase more of their state’s blueberry crop.
The lawmakers have written to the U.S. Department of Agriculture asking the department to buy 18 million pounds of frozen Maine wild blueberries to use in school lunch and emergency food assistance programs, according to a joint release issued Friday.
“Not only are frozen wild blueberries a nutritious addition to school meals or emergency food programs, but USDA purchases also stabilize the price for growers who face challenges from domestic oversupply and international competition,” King and Pingree wrote.”Wild blueberries are an inherently fragile product; over 99% of the crop is frozen at harvest. This puts Maine in a position of being highly financially dependent on the strength of the frozen blueberry market.”
Maine’s 2014 wild blueberry harvest was the second highest on record, with crops yielding about 20 percent more fresh blueberries than in an average year, the release stated.
Blueberry production is up in bot the U.S. and Canada but the sale of fresh blueberries has not kept pace resulting in a surplus of fruit in frozen form, according to the statement.