WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will award a total of $380,170 in federal funding to the Maine Forest Service in support of Maine’s forest products industry. The Maine Forest Service will receive two Wood Innovation Grants through the USDA: $130,170 to establish a Maine State Wood Energy Assistance Team, and $250,000 for a program titled, “Strengthening and Expanding Maine Wood Markets.”
“For generations, Maine’s forest-based economy has helped to form the bedrock of many of our rural communities.” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “At a time of severe challenges for the pulp and paper industry, we must work across all levels of government to leverage resources and build opportunities for the entire forest products sector. We welcome these federal investments, which will bolster the Maine Forest Service’s important efforts to foster growth and innovation across the forest products industry, and we will continue to work together to muster federal support for this critical part of Maine’s economy.”
The Maine State Wood Energy Assistance Team will coordinate the delivery of technical, outreach, and financial assistance to interested individuals, communities, and organizations, and will also work to promote high efficiency, low emissions biomass heating technology through outreach, education, and technical assistance. The team will be comprised of industry stakeholders, state government agencies, and non-profit members.
Through the “Strengthening and Expanding Maine Wood Markets” project, the Maine Forest Service aims to create a Forest Products Industry Development Specialist position to serve as the “go-to person” on forest products markets issues. This person in this position would work to develop strong working relationships with associations, industry leaders, and state and federal agencies; promote Maine’s forest resources assets; and understand forest product market trends, among other responsibilities.
These Wood Innovation Grants awarded to the Maine Forest Service are part of a national investment totaling more than $8.5 million to expand and accelerate technologies and strategies that promote the use of wood in commercial construction, heat and power generation, and other wood product innovations that also benefit forest health. A complete list of the awards and more information on the grant and cooperative agreement program is available HERE.
Senators Collins and King continue to work together in support of Maine’s wood products industry, having called on the U.S. Department of Commerce to take immediate action to bolster Maine’s forest-based economy in the wake of several mill closures that have left communities in rural Maine in the midst of an economic crisis. The Senators received a response from Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker in which she informed them that she has instructed a team from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to begin leading the Commerce Department’s efforts to assist rural communities in Maine.