My grandfather was a potato farmer in The County who worked in the woods in the winter. It was a hard existence, and the family barely survived the Depression. Lifelong residents of the town of Ashland, farming was in my grandparents’ blood. Their lives epitomized the work ethic of all families who toil the soil, the woods, and the sea in Maine.
Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.
Maine’s farmers and food processors have had to work harder than they ever have before because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the pandemic, a number of Maine’s approximately 7,600 farms were struggling with inadequate and aging infrastructure: a lack of refrigeration, freezers, and processing facilities. All of that added up.
And the pandemic only made things worse. With many restaurants, schools, and other institutions closing, our farmers and food processors suddenly lost some of their biggest wholesale buyers.
Despite these hardships, Maine’s farmers and food processors have responded in creative ways – with Maine ingenuity – to feed people during this unprecedented pandemic.
We knew that they needed a little extra help too – so to support the success of our farms and farm families, to increase the supply of Maine-grown food, and to strengthen our economy, my Administration awarded $18 million in federal CARES act coronavirus relief funds last year to more than 600 farms, and food processors, and food banks and pantries all across Maine.
Last week, I was proud to announce that we are making another historic investment in our farmers and food processors by awarding nearly $20 million in American Rescue Plan funds through my Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan to help them address infrastructure needs and improvements.
These grants — which average more than $300,000 a piece — were awarded to farmers and food processors in every county in Maine. Those businesses produce and process everything from dairy to grain and vegetables to fruit to meat and poultry.
Our farmers and food processors have told us they can deliver Maine-grown food to a lot more people if they can make upgrades and strategic investments in their businesses. With these grants we are delivering that help so that they in turn can deliver to all of Maine and to the world all over healthy food, creating good jobs and strengthening our economy.
Investments in farming infrastructure will have a substantial impact on our economy. According to a study done by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and the University of Maine School of Economics, investments in additional processing could support an estimated 1,400 Maine jobs, $321 million in annual statewide sales revenues, and $62 million in labor income per year.
That is just further proof that when we grow and raise our own healthy food and process it here in Maine and sell it through our own shops, stands, and stores to our neighbors and friends — well, that’s a recipe for independent and sustainable farms, and for a healthy people and a healthy economy.
Farming is at the heart of my own family history – and it’s at the heart of our state. Federal funds from the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan as approved by the Legislature are our chance to ensure that our farms can grow food that is processed and distributed here in Maine to supply local businesses and feed families, all of which is critical to our economy.
This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.