Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Public Policy Teach-In

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View the 2018 Common Ground Country Fair Public Policy Teach on YouTube

Agriculture: An Important Piece of Maine’s Economic Development Strategy

Saturday, September 22, 2018
1 to 2:30 p.m. on the Spotlight Stage

You may have heard something in the news about this being an election year.

Next January the Blaine house will host a new governor, and the Legislature will showcase some new representatives and senators. All will have an inspiring new document to help them address the significant challenges facing Maine’s agricultural producers. The working document, entitled “Agriculture: An Important Piece of Maine’s Economic Development Strategy,” is the result of extensive research and many meetings, surveys, interviews and public forums about helping Maine farmers thrive in their businesses. Organizations contributing to this effort included University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine Farm Bureau, Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society, Coastal Enterprises Inc., Maine Food Strategy, Good Shepherd Food Bank, Cultivating Community, Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) and MOFGA.
 
Agricultural is one of Maine’s most promising sectors in terms of overall economic growth and ability to strengthen rural economies. With more than 8,000 farms and approximately 1.5 million acres in farmland, Maine agriculture already is a key component of the state's economy and working landscape. It generates $3.8 billion in statewide total sales and more than 24,000 jobs statewide. Agriculture also is one of the sectors bringing younger people to Maine.
 
But Maine farmers also face significant challenges regarding costs of land and production, infrastructure needs, capital and market access, and distribution. In fact, some of the farming industries most iconic of Maine agriculture and most relied upon by other farming sectors, including the dairy and blueberry sectors, are facing dire economic conditions. Also, as the climate increasingly changes, farmers need tools to adapt.
 
Come to the teach-in to preview this agricultural policy platform. A panel will review the challenges facing Maine agriculture and possible policy areas and investments to support economic growth and resiliency. Panelists will include Ellen Griswold, MFT policy and research director, who will explain how this initiative evolved and the overarching themes of the platform; Penny Jordan of Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth and president of Maine Farm Bureau, who will discuss the critical need for public policy to help Maine farmers succeed in the marketplace; Ben Whalen, co-owner of Bumbleroot Organic Farm in Windham, member of the Southern Maine Young Farmers’ Coalition and former board officer of farmers’ markets in Kittery and Saco, who will cover opportunities and challenges facing Maine’s next generation of farmers; and Jim Gerritsen, long-time MOFGA-certified organic farmer from Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater and president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, who will address agricultural policy in the interest of people, ecosystems, communities and local economies. Heather Spalding, MOFGA’s deputy director, will moderate the discussion.

What’s Happening with the 2019 Farm Bill?

The fate of the next U.S. farm bill was far from clear. Congress has until September 30, 2018, to pass a new farm bill or to authorize an extension for existing farm bill-supported agricultural programs. If Congress fails to act, many programs that provide critical support to Maine’s farming community will be defunded. At the teach-in, MOFGA and MFT will provide an update on the status of the farm bill and will explain actions the public can take to encourage strong farm bill support for Maine farms.

Action Alert: Tell Congress We Need A Better Food and Farm Future