ELLSWORTH — A bill introduced into the Maine Legislature would increase the size of the state’s Wild Blueberry Commission from eight to 14 members.
The bill, presented by Rep. Robert Alley (D-Beals), was heard in the Legislature’s Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry on Feb. 5.
Language in the bill states that “five members must be grower representatives, one member must be of a federally recognized Indian nation, tribe or band in the state, one member must be an organic grower, one member must be a fresh packer, one member must be the leader of a cooperative and one member must be representative of a value-added organization or company.”
The proposed legislation would increase the number of growers — defined as those processing less than 1 million pounds of wild blueberries in a calendar year — on the commission while decreasing the number of processer representatives. Processors are defined as producing more than 1 million pounds of wild blueberries per calendar year.
The legislation has been under discussion by members of the Wild Blueberry Commission and small growers since last December.
Around 57 million pounds of blueberries, one of Maine’s signature agricultural outputs, were harvested statewide in 2018, with prices hovering between 30 and 35 cents per pound. That was a slight increase from 2017, but the overall market has been trending downward in those two years, largely thought to be the result of higher yields flooding the blueberry market in years prior.