As the world around us changes—from markets to climate to energy policy—our farm and food businesses must continuously adjust and adapt. To succeed, we need to create new growth opportunities for Maine’s farmers and value-added food businesses. The goals and policy priorities summarized here will move Maine agriculture forward and ultimately benefit the health and well-being of all Maine people.
I. Create Profitability in Farming
For most, farming in Maine is hard work for little financial gain. This must change. A primary objective is to increase total farm income by 5% per annum over the next decade with the target of a billion dollars by 2020.
- Develop new markets, locally and globally
- Expand agricultural infrastructure and value-added food processing
- Promote Maine agritourism
- Improve efficiency from harvest to consumption
- Support innovation in both technology and energy use
- Create higher paying jobs in the food and farm sectors
II. Increase R&D Investment
Maine farms and food processors are poised to capitalize on unique competitive advantages in our region, such as available land and water resources, growth in farm numbers, and proximity to market. To succeed, we must develop a long-range vision for state investment in agricultural R&D.
- Advocate for increased funding to the University of Maine via the Maine Economic Improvement Fund
- Actively support university and legislative R&D initiatives
- Promote industry leadership and support R&D opportunities with Maine Technology Institute (MTI) and other organizations
- Advocate for reinvestment in crop and livestock research by the USDA
- Support Cooperative Extension’s focus on the Maine Food System
III. Support the Next Generation
No point in the history of a family farm is more critical than succession. Making the transition to new ownership and a younger generation poses a unique set of challenges. We must foster programs that provide support and educational opportunities for the next generation of farmers.
- Develop strategies, training and programs that help smooth farm ownership transition
- Promote access to farm business planning for new and existing farmers
- Cultivate hands-on programs for entry-level farmers through existing agriculture and educational organizations
- Support youth agricultural education and farm connections
IV. Connect Local Food with Healthy Eating
Local farmers and food processors play an essential role in providing Maine people with the high-quality food necessary for a healthy diet. We believe that building connections between farmers and consumers is key to a healthier future for Maine.
- Promote high quality standards through food safety training and verification programs
- Support a strong and active food science and human nutrition presence at the University of Maine
- Support research and promote nutritional benefits of Maine-grown products
- Support nutrition programs that connect consumers and farmers
V. Lead, Advocate & Protect Maine’s Farm Resources
Maine’s productive farmland and water resources are the foundation of our agriculture, today and tomorrow. We all have a vested interest in protecting these critical natural resources. We must educate the public that farmers practice land and water stewardship every day.
- Encourage development of innovative financial tools to protect farmland for the future
- Improve and revise the Farm and Open Space Tax Law to make farm infrastructure eligible for tax abatement
- Amend small business laws to insure inclusion of farms
- Protect Maine’s water resources, ensuring availability for farm use in crop, livestock and aquaculture production.
- Continue to support successful land and water conservation practices for producers
- Ensure that water for agriculture remains a priority use as enacted in Maine law