Wild blueberries await harvesting in Warren, July 27, 2012. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

Maine’s agriculture commissioner is asking the federal government to use a new program to buoy the state’s wild blueberry industry during a difficult time.

Blueberry harvesters collected about 57 million pounds of the berries in 2018. That was down nearly 11 million pounds from the previous year, and prices have been low. Maine Agriculture Commissioner Amanda Beal is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture for help via its market facilitation program.

USDA launched the program last year to assist growers negatively affected by foreign trade retaliation. Beal said the program will provide more than $14 billion in direct payments to producers this year, but wild blueberries are not included in the program’s list of crops.

Beal said Maine’s blueberry growers are often overlooked by programs and “deserve this needed support.”