Governor Mills: Our farming industry is at the heart of our state

Sat, 05/22/2021 - 11:30am

The following is a transcript of a radio address presented by Governor Janet Mills: 

Maine’s farmers are near and dear to my heart and to my administration. You know, my grandfather was a potato farmer in Aroostook County, and he worked in the woods in the winters.

Like most Mainers, I know, and appreciate, the hard work of our farmers and I value a little dirt under the fingernails.

I know you do too.

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills. Thank you for listening.

This week I toured Maine Grains. It’s a gristmill opened in 2012 in a former county jail in Skowhegan, Maine. Maine Grains provides bakers, brewers, chefs, and families with locally-sourced, fresh-milled organic grains.

By sourcing grain from local farms, by milling it locally, and by partnering with local food ventures, Maine Grains is supporting the health and livelihood of farmers, it’s creating jobs, it’s improving land use, and it’s providing healthy food while serving as a successful model for thriving local economies.

This year has been pretty tough on our agricultural community — our farmers and food processors like Maine Grains and so many in-between — but I am proud of the ways they have responded to serve the people of Maine.

Maine is home to 7,600 farms of all sizes, scales, and agricultural practices.

Before the pandemic, the agricultural community’s inadequate and aging infrastructure hindered the growth of our local food economy. Refrigeration, freezers, lack of processing plants, all of that added up.

And the pandemic only made it worse for folks when market and supply chain disruptions forced producers and processors and businesses to adapt rapidly to access different markets and distribution channels.

In response to a recent survey, Maine farmers and food processors described these infrastructure needs. They told us that storage and processing and packaging capacity are in need.

In my Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, I propose investing $20 million of federal funds in Maine farms and processors to help them upgrade their infrastructure.

Immediate investments in Maine’s farms and food processors will support the growth and long-term sustainability of our farms and farm families, it’ll increase the supply of locally grown food, and increase Maine’s agricultural exports, boosting our economy all around.

When we grow and raise our own healthy food, in our fields and waters, and sell it through our own shops to our neighbors and friends well, that’s a recipe for a healthy people and a healthy economy.

Our farming industry is at the heart of not only my history – it’s at the heart of our state. Federal funds from the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan 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.

I look forward to working with the Legislature to help Maine’s farmers and food processors through the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan and to continue Maine’s economic recovery from the pandemic and chart long-term growth for all of our communities.

This Governor Janet Mills. Thank you for listening.