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King, Pingree Introduce Bill to Expand Popular Grant Program for Maine Organic Farmers

 U.S. Senator Angus King and Representative Chellie Pingree have introduced legislation to ensure Maine organic farmers and businesses are well equipped to expand their businesses, reach new markets and further support Maine’s agricultural economy. The Organic Market Development Act would codify and increase support for an existing, and highly popular, grant program, which would help resolve supply chain gaps as demands for organic products continue to rise.

In a 2020 study, Maine, per capita, ranked second in the country for the availability of organic food. For every 100,000 Maine people, there are 37 organic farms located across the state – with Maine vegetable farms producing the most organic produce in the nation.

“As Maine’s organic farmers face increasing challenges from changing global markets, climate change, and more, we must continue to provide resources and support to help them evolve with the times,” said Senator King. “The Organic Market Development Act would codify an existing and highly in demand grant program to ensure the continuance of grant funding to Maine’s organic farmers so that they can respond to these challenges and pave the way for the future of the organic food industry. Thanks to Representative Pingree for supporting Maine farmers and the entire American agriculture industry.”

“Organic agriculture sales reached over $60 billion in 2022 and continues to grow, building a more resilient and sustainable food system. As more farmers consider making the transition from conventional to organic farming, we must strengthen organic processing and storage and enhance market opportunities,” said Congresswoman Pingree, a longtime organic farmer and member of the House Agriculture Committee. “I’m proud to introduce the Organic Market Development Act alongside Congresswomen Kuster and Salinas and Senator Baldwin to expand and create new markets for organic products.”

"Organic Market Development is critical for Maine's producers to be able to access funding and support for processing infrastructure and market creation,” said Sarah Alexander, Executive Director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). “We can keep more money in Maine's rural farming communities if producers can add value to their products before they're sold. This could especially benefit our organic dairy community by adding organic dairy processing and cold storage in the state, both of which are currently lacking."

Retail sales of organic fresh fruits and vegetables were an estimated $19.2 billion in 2021 and have steadily trended upward for the past two decades. In 2021, U.S. sales of organic food products reached $52 billion, nearly double the sales done in 2010.

The Organic Market Development Act will:

  • Increase the capacity of the domestic organic product supply chain for producers, handlers, suppliers, and processors of certified organic products;
  • Modernize manufacturing, tracking, storage, and information technology systems;
  • Improve the capacity of eligible entities to comply with applicable regulatory requirements or quality standards required to access markets;
  • Expand capacity for processing, aggregation, and distribution of certified organic products to create more and better markets for producers of certified organic products; facilitate market development for domestically produced certified organic products;
  • Conduct feasibility studies and market viability assessments to inform organic transition strategies and opportunities;
  • Address barriers to entry to organic product certification for historically underserved entities; and
  • Support market and promotional activities that help build commercial markets for certified organic products in the United States.

Senator King has been a strong advocate for Maine farmers. He previously introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill to boost marketing efforts and overseas sales for American agricultural products with Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). Their Expanding Agricultural Exports Act is estimated to increase agricultural exports by $7.4 billion by doubling funding for the advertising programs of agricultural goods in foreign countries. Additionally, Senator King has worked to support Maine’s lobster fisherywild blueberry industry and potato farmers. King has also co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to combat the unfair practice of mislabeling non-dairy products using dairy names.

Congresswoman Pingree, a longtime organic farmer, is a member of both the House Agriculture Committee and House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee, and is Co-Chair of the House Organic Caucus. In Congress, Pingree has distinguished herself as a strong supporter of organic and sustainable agriculture, authoring the landmark Agriculture Resilience Act, which sets a bold vision of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in U.S. agriculture by 2040. As the only House Agriculture Committee member who has on-the-ground experience as an organic farmer, Pingree is a voice for small family farmers and local agriculture producers during Farm Bill negotiations. Because of her leadership, the 2018 Farm Bill more than doubled funding for organic research, created the first federal produce prescription program, and created the local agriculture market program with permanent federal funding. This summer, Pingree brought House Agriculture Committee Chair Glenn “G.T” Thompson (R-Pa.) and other Committee members to Maine for a Farm Bill listening session.

Source : senate.gov

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