BILL TO EXPAND MAINE FARMS AND LOCAL FOODS MOVES FORWARD
AUGUSTA –A measure to expand the use of fresh Maine foods into new markets like school food service programs moves out of committee with a divided report from the state’s Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee.
“This measure strengthens our agricultural economy, protects our resources, and provides healthy food for our people,” said Democratic State Senator Chris Johnson of Somerville, the sponsor of the measure. “This is a triple win for our bottom line.”
The measure, LD 1284 “An Act To Expand the Local Foods Economy,” is a continuation of Senator Johnson’s efforts from the 126th Legislature: LD 1431, “An Act to Support School Nutrition and Grow the Local Foods Economy,” was passed unanimously in the Senate and broadly supported in the House before Gov. LePage vetoed the measure. While the bill was successfully overridden in the Senate, it narrowly failed an override in the House.
Currently, New England only produces only 10% of the food consumed in the region; however, according to New England Food Vision report, New England has capacity to produce more than 50% of the food consumed. Maine leads New England with 8,174 farms and contributes more than $2 billion annually to the state’s economy, according to the Maine Farm Bureau Association.
Senator Johnson added, “Maine has a great opportunity to help farming grow and help farmers earn a reasonable return for their work.”
Additionally, the measure provides small competitive grants for business plan development followed by competitive loans.
“Whether the need is a test lab or a shared-use licensed kitchen this loan program can help with local foods infrastructure and adding value in a shortened food chain,” said Senator Johnson. “In the end, that is good for farmers and consumers.”
The measure will now go to the Senate for consideration in the coming weeks.