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April 13, 2018

State awards $188K in grants to address ‘critical’ agricultural needs

Photo / Ted Axelrod, axelrodphotography.com
Photo / Ted Axelrod, axelrodphotography.com
Maine's wild blueberry harvests of up to 100 million pounds a year represent a $250 million industry, according to the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine. But prices have plummeted, causing some Maine growers to sell their barrens.

About the Agricultural Development Fund

The Agricultural Development Fund supports accelerating new market development, adoption of improved technology and promotion of agricultural products produced in Maine. The commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry may allocate the grant funds among projects involving market research, market promotion, or a combination of those activities for the purpose of expanding existing markets and developing new markets for agricultural products produced in Maine; or for testing and demonstrating new technologies related to the production, storage or processing of state agricultural products.

Commissioner Walt Whitcomb of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry announced five grants totaling almost $188,000 on Thursday that will support projects addressing critical needs in the state's agriculture industry

The awards were announced during Agriculture Day at the Maine Legislature. The projects particularly target Washington County for development of new markets and processing techniques for wild blueberries and organic poultry processing and also include support for the creation of value-added vegetable products that can be marketed on a global scale.

"The investments being announced today support producers and processors of Maine wild blueberries; value-added vegetable products to compete in the global marketplace; and organic poultry processing in Washington County," Gov. Paul R. LePage said in a news release. "Maine's reputation for quality, locally-grown products, combined with the resourcefulness of the Maine people, will help agriculture realize its full economic potential."

Whitcomb highlighted Maine's efforts to support farmers and producers through enhanced marketing, technical support and promotion of Maine agriculture locally, nationally and internationally.

"Selected projects address critical needs in the agricultural industry, Washington County in particular, for development of new markets and processing techniques for wild blueberries and organic poultry processing," he said. "They also include support for the creation of value-added vegetable products that can be marketed on a global scale. We congratulate the grantees and look forward to successful implementation of their projects."

The selected projects were chosen by a review committee from 35 qualified proposals submitted in response to a formal RFP. Here's the list of the recipients:

  • Blue Sky Produce, Scarborough: $10,000 to help stimulate demand for frozen wild blueberries. Blue Sky Produce and 13 fresh-pack wild blueberry growers will conduct 40 educational demonstrations for fresh wild blueberries in retail stores in New York and New Jersey
  • LaJoie Growers LLC, Van Buren: $50,000 to expand vegetable and dehydrating processing capabilities to produce a value-added dehydrated beet product that can be marketed on a global scale.
  • Tide Mill Organics, Edmunds Township: $50,000 to improve its organic poultry processing plant in Washington County to become a "state-inspected processing facility" and to develop value-added products, such as ground turkey and chicken, poultry sausages, and pet food.
  • University of Maine, Orono: $27,735 to support research by Jennifer Perry of the School of Food and Agriculture on how to optimize aqueous washing procedures for wild blueberries growers and processors to ensure improved food safety.
  • Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, Orono: $50,000 to expand its marketing program to expand sales of frozen wild blueberries in the nation's public schools.

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