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

Man from Olds killed in collision near Sundre

A 39-year-old man from Olds was killed in a collision near Sundre… Continue reading

Tips to keep crime at bay this Christmas

’Tis the season for joy and celebration, but the Christmas season can… Continue reading

Olympic ski run designer creates upgrades at Canyon Ski Resort

Jeff Ihaksi says free-style and alpine ski venues are Canada Winter Games-worthy

Updated: Collision expert backs version of crash of driver accused of manslaughter

Daniel Newsham accused of manslaughter in fatal 2016 collision

WATCH: More than 100 protest UN migration pact, carbon tax in Red Deer

Chants of “Trudeau must go” echoed through the streets of downtown Red… Continue reading

Tkachuk’s goal in 3rd gives Flames 2-1 win over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Matthew Tkachuk scored the go-ahead goal midway through… Continue reading

Women use scent to lure wolf-dog that ran away from Calgary airport

EDMONTON — A woman from Alberta is thanking an unconventional strategy for… Continue reading

Suspect in Alberta, Saskatchewan bank robberies to get mental assessment

MEDICINE HAT, Alta. — A former Winnipeg broadcaster and journalism instructor accused… Continue reading

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau says his government hopes to make legal changes… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $60 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — There was no winning ticket for the $60 million jackpot… Continue reading

All evacuation orders lifted in deadly California wildfire

PARADISE, Calif. — All evacuation orders have been lifted in Paradise more… Continue reading

All aflutter about our feathered friends

Christmas Bird Count will be held Dec. 23

Baylor ties pervade rape case that sparked uproar

DALLAS — The Texas judge who approved a plea deal allowing a… Continue reading

Most Read