With change, vision and new leadership, I believe Maine can be a regional and national leader when it comes to agriculture, aquaculture, and quality, healthy local food. We already have one of the fastest growing populations of young farmers in the country. Our “farm, field and sea to table” ecosystem and creative Maine chefs have already garnered national and international reputations.
I will talk in more detail about building on this leadership over the course of the campaign, but here are some core ideas that will guide us:
- Helping more people start and succeed at small farming. How can we listen and partner with all folks farming in our communities to help them get started, get over the initial financial hurdles, and grow in sustainable ways? We want to continue to attract the best and brightest people to Maine’s agriculture economy and to help those farms – many in rural parts of our state – succeed.
- Cross laminated timber. Wood has always been and will continue to be an important commodity. There are whole new generations of products like cross laminated timber, advanced composites, wood based biofuels, and others where Maine can lead and grow our rural economy. We have some of the richest forests east of the Mississippi. As governor, I will partner with Maine’s wood products businesses, workers and communities to see how the state can help provide or attract the capital required for Maine to lead in these emerging industries.
- Craft brewing and barley. High quality craft breweries are an incredible success story for Maine. More than 80 new breweries have opened in recent years across all 16 Maine counties. Today, these folks are still getting their barley from farms and companies in the Midwest or beyond. Yet, barley is an exceptional rotational crop that can be grown right here in Maine. As governor, I will work to bring leaders together to find out how the state can support the growth of barley both for Maine brewers and as an export crop.
- Agriculture infrastructure and food hubs. One challenge that has received some discussion when it comes to building an even stronger “small farm economy” in Maine is food hubs. How can we make sure there is infrastructure available that allows farmers to easily save or freeze fresh produce and other products so they can be sold beyond the growing season? I will actively look at how the state can help support, create or attract the capital needed to build these food hubs. There is no reason Maine cannot become a booming provider of quality, local, natural and organic food for the northeast and beyond.
- Supporting and partnering to grow the agriculture and aquaculture sectors. Several private sector companies have studied Maine’s most competitive or potentially competitive industries and concluded that agriculture and aquaculture are both very promising sectors. The work, done by Focus Maine, projects that a smart focus on these sectors (plus biopharmaceuticals and knowledge workers) could lead to 10,000 jobs over the next ten years. I will look for ways to partner and support these efforts where it is appropriate for the state to do so.
- Broadband for agriculture and aquaculture businesses. Access to high-speed broadband is very important for the modern farmer. So many things — from irrigation and water use to fertilizing, etc. — can all be made more cost effective and competitive with access to wireless and GPS technology. All other businesses involved in selling or marketing Maine agricultural products obviously require access to affordable, quality high-speed broadband.