In response to your recent editorial regarding government subsidies for farmers, it is necessary to correct the assertion that the Section 32 Bonus Buy program, which recently benefited the Maine wild blueberry industry, is taxpayer-funded. In fact, the program is funded through annual customs receipts — i.e., duties on agricultural and non-agricultural products imported into this country. (P.L.74-320, as amended; 7 U.S.C. 612c).
The Bonus Buy program is just one of many efforts that the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine has pursued in order to improve the difficult conditions currently facing Maine wild blueberry growers and processors. We have built a successful national school foodservice program that has stimulated a 57 percent increase in the purchases of Maine wild blueberries; we actively pursue export opportunities; and we support strategic promotional and marketing efforts to educate consumers, chefs and food manufacturers to choose wild blueberries over the larger cultivated kind. Many people — including Mainers — do not know that 99 percent of our wild blueberry crop is frozen. When the August harvest is over and delicious fresh wild blueberries disappear from roadside stands and farmers markets, consumers should know that they can find frozen wild blueberries year-round in the freezer section of their local grocery store.
We appreciate The Ellsworth American’s encouragement for Mainers to eat more wild blueberries. We also encourage those making wild blueberry products or serving them in their restaurants and bars to call out wild blueberries to highlight their wild origin and Maine heritage on their labels and menus. Helping improve the current situation takes many partners and starts here at home.
Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine