Maine’s farmers, including those in the dairy, potato, and blueberry industries, have suffered significant loses as a direct result of the pandemic
Bangor, ME – In addition to threatening public health, the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a substantial economic toll on nearly every industry in the United States. Maine’s agriculture sector has experienced severe financial harm due to the coronavirus, and Maine farmers are struggling with plummeting prices for their goods and rising costs. U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, has been working across the aisle to secure assistance for Maine’s farmers.
“As a native of Aroostook County, I was fortunate to have grown up amid the values of hard work, determination, innovation, and common sense that define Maine’s agricultural industry and those who work in it,” Senator Collins continued. “Agriculture is an integral part of the fabric of Maine’s rural communities, from newly founded farms to operations that have been passed down from generation to generation. During this difficult time, I will continue to advocate for farmers.”
Senator Collins has helped to lead bipartisan efforts in Congress to direct more support to farmers. She recently co-signed a series of letters to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), urging Secretary Sonny Perdue to prioritize assistance to Maine farmers, including those in the dairy, potato, and blueberry industries.
- Dairy. Senator Collins led a letter with the entire Maine and New Hampshire Congressional Delegations to USDA today, urging the agency to provide price stabilizing assistance for New England dairy farmers.
- Potatoes. Maine potato farmers have lost nearly half of their business and could see advance orders for next year’s crop drop by as much as 20 percent due to COVID-19 closures and restrictions on restaurants. To help mitigate these losses, the Maine Delegation sent a letter to USDA, urging the agency to directly purchase Maine potatoes from farmers. In the letter, the delegation highlights Maine-grown potatoes as a nutrient-dense and versatile food source that can help to combat food insecurity through the USDA’s nutrition program.
- Specialty Crops. In a letter to USDA, Senator Collins and a bipartisan group of 29 Senators requested that the $9.5 billion for agricultural assistance that was included in the CARES Act is also available for producers of specialty crops. Specialty crops grown in Maine include fresh potatoes, blueberries, apples, and broccoli.
- Local Food Producers and New Farmers. In another letter to the USDA, Senator Collins and a bipartisan group of 33 Senators requested that for crop year 2020, the Farm Service Agency waive farm number requirements for local food producers and new farmers who currently do not have them. They also called for USDA to establish a national hotline to manage incoming producer inquiries, simplify the application process, and make information about the program available in multiple languages.