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Trade Retaliation Program Unlikely To Help Maine's Blueberry Growers

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press/file
In this Aug. 24, 2018, file photo, Sam Bentzinger, left, and Jake Bentzinger unload freshly picked wild blueberries at the Coastal Blueberry Service in Union, Maine.

PORTLAND, Maine - A federal program designed to help farmers suffering due to trade disruption is unlikely to assist Maine's wild blueberry growers.Maine is the sole commercial producer of wild blueberries in the United States. The industry has struggled in recent years with falling crop sizes and low prices to farmers.

Maine Agriculture Commissioner Amanda Beal has called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to include the crop in its Market Facilitation Program, which is slated to provide billions to growers negatively impacted by foreign trade retaliation.
But the USDA tells The Associated Press in a statement that program is intended for crops that aren't easily used in school food programs or through food banks. Wild blueberries sometimes fill those needs. The agency says the blueberries remain eligible for other USDA assistance programs.

AP-WF08-08-19 1612GMT