Congressman pushing frozen berries for fresh produce program

  • May. 9, 2018 8:50 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Maine congressman says he plans to go forward with a proposal to include frozen and canned foods in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program despite criticism from the program’s founder.

The proposal by Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who has used Maine blueberries as an example of a frozen food that could help the program, is part of the federal Farm Bill that’s wending its way through approvals. Poliquin’s proposal also would open up the program to dried and pureed foods.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program provides money to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for school snacks. The program was initiated by retired Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa in 2002, and he has criticized Poliquin’s plan to alter it, including saying, “once you start whittling away at it, it’s no longer a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program.”

Poliquin said he considers the change “a huge win for our school children” as well as blueberry harvesters in his state, who have contended with low prices, an oversupply of product and volatile harvests in recent years.

“As a parent, I know how important it is for our kids to be able to eat healthy all year round with nutritious products from across the country,” Poliquin said.

Harkin, who retired in 2015 after serving as a senator from Iowa for 30 years and a congressman for 10 before that, said a better solution is to just send fresh blueberries to schoolchildren. He said he’s concerned about added sugars in frozen fruit products.

“People have wanted to include peanuts and trail mix and God knows what else. Now this guy from Maine wants frozen or canned blueberries,” Harkin said.

Poliquin’s proposal has the support of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, which promotes the industry. Maine is the largest blueberry-producing state in the U.S.

The Maine blueberry industry has been looking for new customers to help with flagging prices in recent years. The vast majority of Maine’s crop is frozen, and it would be an ideal product for an expanded Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, said Nancy McBrady, executive director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine.

McBrady said Maine wild blueberries have a very short “fresh period,” so shipping them fresh to schools probably isn’t realistic.

“It shouldn’t be the second choice, it should be up there on equal footing,” she said of frozen fruit.

The Republican-written Farm Bill passed the House Agriculture Committee in April. The current bill that is in place is set to lapse next year. A spokesman for Poliquin said he has not received word on when the new bill will reach its next steps.

Just Posted

Vandal strikes downtown business

Window with PRIDE poster broken

No new RNs hired to Red Deer hospital emergency department in a month: United Nurses of Alberta

UNA filed a grievance in June in response to what they say is a staffing crisis

Traffic pattern to change for summer near interchange

Southbound Hwy 2 traffic to be shifted

Red Deer couple win $100,000 in lottery

Couple won their money on June 1 LOTTO MAX with EXTRA draw

‘Walking survey’ of Red Deer’s green carts starts this week

Gold stars or pointers on correct use will be left on inspected carts

Updated: SUV smashes through fences and deck in Anders

Driver taken to hospital after SUV veered off 30th Avenue into Anders

Cull hasn’t been able to solve bunny burden in Alberta mountain town of Canmore

CANMORE, Alta. — Problems persist in an Alberta mountain town overrun with… Continue reading

Canada should help Holocaust denier on trial in Germany: civil liberties group

OTTAWA — A civil liberties group is urging the Canadian government to… Continue reading

Westerner Days: Send us your photos

Your reader photo may just make the pages of the Adovcate.

Adam Henrique signs $29.1M, 5-year extension with Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Centre Adam Henrique has signed a $29.1 million, five-year… Continue reading

Fashion firms upend design routine to focus on speed, trends

NEW YORK — Prototypes? Passe. Fashion company Betabrand saw that knitwear was… Continue reading

Trimming and tidying: Perennials need care too

The great attraction in growing perennial flowers is that you never have… Continue reading

Johnny Depp settles lawsuits involving former managers

LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp has settled lawsuits with his former business… Continue reading

Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber falls to Bryce Harper in Home Run Derby final

WASHINGTON — Nationals Park was eerily quiet late Monday when Kyle Schwarber… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month