Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, secured significant victories for Maine’s potato farmers in the fiscal year 2019 Appropriations Minibus that passed the Senate by an overwhelming majority of 83-15.
Following Senator Collins’ strong advocacy, the legislation included $2.75 million – an increase of $250,000 – for potato research and $20 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which supports the work of the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension Potato IPM program. The bill also includes language authored by Senator Collins to give schools the flexibility to provide potatoes through the School Breakfast Program.
“Maine potatoes are a staple in homes across the country and are a testament to the thousands of hardworking farmers in Northern Maine,” said Senator Collins. “The provisions I worked to include in this bill will support Maine potato farmers by investing in innovative research at UMaine to improve the potato’s resilience and ensuring this nutritious vegetable can be offered as part of school breakfasts.”
Senator Collins has been a longtime champion of Maine’s agricultural heritage. Last year, she introduced the bipartisan Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act, which would double the funding for two USDA export promotion programs and help U.S. farmers stay competitive in the global markets. Senator Collins also led the successful effort in 2011 to block a USDA proposed rule that would limit servings of a certain category of vegetables that includes white potatoes, green peas, lima beans, and corn, to a total of one-cup per week in the National School Lunch Program.
IPM is a multidisciplinary approach to making crop management decisions, which includes disease identification and weed control strategies. UMaine’s IPM provides up-to-date potato insect and disease scouting and forecasting reports to potato growers and industry professionals in central and northern Maine during the potato growing season.
The Appropriations Minibus will now be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives.