(Sept. 23) Maine blueberry growers may be eligible for federal compensation as a result of a petition filed by the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, Orono, for trade adjustment assistance.

Trade adjustment assistance was established by the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reform Act of 2002 , and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will provide technical and cash benefits to eligible producers when the administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service determines that rising imports have been important factors in price declines during the most recent five years.

On Sept. 12 the FAS administrator accepted the petition filed by the commission, and a Federal Register notice said the FAS will determine within 40 days whether imports of wild blueberries contributed importantly to a decline in domestic producer prices of 20% or more during the marketing period between July 2002 and June 2003.

If the determination is positive, all producers represented by the group will be eligible to apply to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency for cash benefits and technical assistance at no cost. The program offers up to $10,000 in aid per year to U.S. growers hurt by import surges.

USDA statistics show U.S. imports of frozen blueberries and mulberries totaled 2,274 metric tons in 2002, up from 918 metric tons in 1998. Fresh imports of wild blueberries topped 6,000 metric tons in 2002, up from 2,773 metric tons in 1998.

For further information, e-mail FAS at trade.adjustment@fas.usda.gov.