Support Maine Wild Blueberry Small Farmers

Support Maine Wild Blueberry Small Farmers

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Small Blueberry Farmers started this petition to Maine Rep Robert Alley

Maine’s small Wild Blueberry growers are in peril and need better representation on the Maine Wild Blueberry Commission to survive. Bill LD 145 would ensure their survival via better representation on the Maine Wild Blueberry Commission.
 
In last 2 years, wild blueberry prices plummeted below the cost of growing them. Last year, many field were left unattended and millions of pounds of berries were left on the ground. Some small growers, unable to make a profit, have sold their acreage, which is also desirable forits gravel and the aquifers below the soil.
 
The Maine Wild Blueberry Commission was created about 40 years ago as an independent state agency whose purpose, according to statute, was “to conserve and promote the prosperity and welfare” of the Maine wild blueberry industry. The commission was made up of 5 processors and 3 growers. The Commission, heavy with processors who were charged with selling the industry’s crop, shifted the focus of the per-pound tax money toward marketing. The Commission sends much of the tax money up to the Wild Blueberry Association of North America—WBANA—the marketing group which includes representation of our competitors in Canada .
 
Forty years ago, there were about 900 growers and they trusted the processors to whom they sold their berries. Most deals were done by handshake. By 1988, the number of growers had decreased to about 700, the processors had consolidated more, and trust began to erode. In 2003, in federal court, the processors were found guilty of price fixing against the growers and trust really faded on both sides.
 
Today, the number of growers has decreased to something between 500 and 300. This $28 million industry is controlled by just a few processors, the largest of whom are owned by multi-national corporations. With only 3 seats on the Wild Blueberry Commission which decides where the tax money is spent, the small growers don’t have much of a voice. 
 
For these reasons, the small growers who have built the industry over the past 70 years, partially through a self-imposed tax, need greater representation on the Maine Wild Blueberry Commission, participation in the nomination process, equal status with the co-operative extension committee for its fresh-pack/value-added committee, and protection from conflicts of interest by former Commission-member lobbyists. LD 145 does that and I urge you to support it.  Keep Maine Wild!!
         

 

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