Dec 21, 2023
Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine seeks relief for growers

In an answer to spiraling grower expenses, the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine is seeking a year hiatus from the 1.5 cents per pound tax the state levies on the wild berries.

The commission met in Ellsworth, Maine, on Dec. 13 to discuss grower profitability and the tax, which is due on all wild blueberries grown in Maine, whether they are processed in Maine or out of the state. Virtually all of the crop is processed.

Photo courtesy of Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine.

The commission consists of blueberry growers and processors; the tax is split between the two groups.

The tax, assessed and collected by the state, goes to the commission, a research and promotion program. According to the group’s 2022 Annual Report, the tax raised $1.7 million, 61% of which went to promotion activities. A majority of that, $920,000, went to promotion and health research through the Wild Blueberry Association of North America-US in 2022. Another 10% of the commission budget went to the University of Maine for research projects.

“The commission seeks to create an agricultural business environment that promotes a vibrant wild blueberry community and fosters profitability, innovation and the sustainability of Maine’s wild blueberry farms and food processors across all scales of production,” according to a news release from the group.

The commission cites skyrocketing farm production expenses since 2020, including labor and input costs that are up an average of 28%, and some as high as 78%, according to a mid-2023 USDA report on row crops and other non-specialty crop production.

“Some of Maine’s wild blueberry producers tell me that input costs for wild blueberry production may have doubled over the last three years,” Eric Venturini, executive director of the commission, said in the release.

If successful, this relief would affect grower tax payments on the 2024 crop.

“We continue, unabated, to carry on the commission’s vital work of seeking long-term solutions to the growing challenge of farm profitability,” Venturini said in the release. “We hope that this decision will support Maine’s wild blueberry farmers to carry on this rich cultural tradition and provide Maine, New England, the U.S., and the world with one of the healthiest, tastiest, and culturally rich wild foods available to consumers.”

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