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Business and Economy

USDA Rejects Tariff Retaliation Help For Maine's Wild Blueberry Growers

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press/file
In this Friday, July 27, 2012, file photo, workers harvest wild blueberries at the Ridgeberry Farm in Appleton, Maine.

State Agriculture officials say they are disappointed with a U.S. Department of Agriculture decision to exclude Maine wild blueberries from a federal program designed to help growers negatively affected by retaliatory tariffs. Nancy McBrady, director of the Maine Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, says she received a copy of the decision over the weekend.

"We believed that this program, in particular, would be very beneficial to Maine wild blueberry growers because, unlike other USDA assistance programs, this was one that would have directly provided a financial benefit to growers," McBrady says.

In the past, Maine's wild blueberry industry has benefited from other programs, including the Section 32 bonus buy program, and McBrady says that appears to have been a factor in the USDA's decision.

"The bonus buy program, while important in helping to reduce the overall supply of wild blueberries, which was quite high in the recent past, actually would only do that through the purchase of frozen wild blueberries from processors," McBrady says. "So it was not a direct financial benefit to growers."

McBrady says other fruits,  such as cranberries, are now in the Marketing Facilitation Program, despite receiving other USDA benefits.  She says it's unclear why cranberries can participate in both, while wild blueberries cannot.