Maine Delegation to USDA: Consider Aid to Blueberry Farmers in Tariff Relief Package

July 16, 2019
Press Release
“Wild blueberry producers have faced tremendous strain due to ongoing trade retaliation and disruption.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Jared Golden (D-Maine) sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to include the wild blueberry industry in the USDA’s Market Facilitation Program. Announced by the USDA in May, the Market Facilitation Program will provide financial aid to agricultural producers affected by China’s retaliatory tariffs.

“The wild blueberry industry has been an integral part of Maine’s agricultural heritage since the mid-1800s. Due to the crop’s proclivity to grow in rocky, acidic soils and cool climates, Maine is the largest commercial producer of wild blueberries in the world,” wrote the Maine Delegation. “The majority of farms that grow and process wild blueberries are family-owned. However, recent economic pressures and reduced prices have placed a significant burden on wild blueberry growers, resulting in many growers drastically cutting back on harvesting their crops within the last two years.”

“Prior to 2018, wild blueberries had been making steady headway into the Chinese market, as China’s imports of all blueberries increased from 1.5 million pounds in 2012, to 19.2 million pounds in 2016,” the letter continued. “In 2017, Maine exported nearly two million pounds of wild blueberries to China. Due to recent trade disputes, the Chinese export market for Maine wild blueberries has all but vanished. Maine only exported around 75,000 pounds of wild blueberries to China in 2018… Wild blueberry producers have faced tremendous strain due to ongoing trade retaliation and disruption. We strongly request that the USDA take every appropriate action, in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations, to include wild blueberries within the Market Facilitation Program.”

Today’s letter marks the Delegation’s latest efforts to advocate for Maine agricultural products in trade negotiations. Last week, the Delegation sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to include significant funding for Maine’s lobster industry as the Department finalizes their aid package for agricultural producers affected by China’s retaliatory tariffs. The letter follows up on the Delegation’s initial request in June to provide relief for Maine’s lobster industry amidst the ongoing trade war with China. In February, the Maine Delegation wrote two letters urging the Administration to prioritize lobsters and potatoes in the ongoing trade negotiations with China.

The full letter can be downloaded HERE or read below: