MEASURE BOOSTING INVESTMENT IN MAINE’S FARMS AND FISHERIES TAKEN UP BY AG PANEL
AUGUSTA – A measure aimed at helping Maine’s farms and fisheries expand their marketing efforts held a public hearing today in the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry committee today.
The bill, LD 304, “An Act to Support Marketing of Maine’s Farms and Fisheries,” expands the financing assistance opportunities for Maine farms and fisheries by using the accrued interest in the Agricultural Marketing Loan Fund for competitive grants to fund feasibility studies or business planning for new agricultural infrastructure projects.
“I know that people who are in farming and fishing do not have the time nor financial resources to do this kind of work on their own,” said Senator Miramant, the sponsor of the bill. “This is a situation where outside support could go a long way and where a little bit of money in these upfront investments could result in big payoffs later.”
Under current law, the Agricultural Marketing Loan Fund offers a direct loan to agricultural enterprises and businesses engaged in producing, processing, storing, packaging or marketing of products derived from an agricultural enterprise. The program participates with private lenders to provide customized, cost-effective financing packages for these capital projects.
“The Agricultural Marketing Loan Fund has been very effective in supporting the growth and marketing of Maine’s farms and fisheries,” said Senator Miramant of Camden. “The goal here is to build upon the existing successes and offer additional assistance for economic development.”
Since its creation in 1996, the fund has helped finance 117 projects that have leveraged a total of $23.5 million in investments in Maine’s agriculture infrastructure around the state.
Examples of new farming business ventures in Maine include: Northern Girl, an Aroostook County produce distributor for institutional markets; a project of the Cobscook Bay Resource Center, a local scallops processor; and the Unity Food Hub, a product aggregator from three dozen central Maine farms.
Miramant added, “For every new venture that has been created, there are several that are being conceived. And I see a role for the state to help Maine farmers, fishermen and fisherwomen move to the next level and realize its full promise.”
According to the 2012 Agricultural census, Maine has more working farms than in any other state in New England and the second highest rate of new farms in the entire country. And, while the rest of the nation is seeing a decline in working farms, Maine is seeing an uptick–with Maine farms increasing 13.5 percent.
The bill will next be scheduled for a work session in the committee before moving forward to the full Legislature for consideration.
Senator Dave Miramant represents Senate District 12, which includes the communities of Appleton, Camden, Criehaven Twp., Cushing, Friendship, Hope, Isle au Haut, Matinicus Isle Plantation, Muscle Ridge Islands Township, North Haven, Owl’s Head, Rockland, Rockport, South Thomaston, St. George, Thomaston, Union, Vinalhaven, and Warren.