Governor Mills announces $20 million in grants for Maine farms and food processors

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 6:01 PM EST
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) -Governor Mills visited a wild blueberry farm in Hope today to announce 20-million dollars in federal funding for Maine’s farmers and food processors.

”As a wild blueberry farm, we were facing the idea of maybe shutting down.”

Ron Howard is the owner of Brodis Blueberries, which has been family-owned for over 150 years.

“None of the generations wanted to be the last.” said Howard.

Governor Mills toured their new processing facility Monday. It was built with funds from 18-million dollars of CARES Act money distributed to Maine farmers and food processors earlier this year.

“Today I’m proud to announce that we’re making another unprecedented investment in our farms and food processors.”

As part of the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, 20-million dollars of federal funding will be used to create the Agricultural Infrastructure Investment Program, administered by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry. Commissioner Amanda Beal spoke at the announcment.

“Interest in Maine grown food has been growing steadily for decades, and we saw that the pandemic really accelerated that interest while also making it clear that we have real infrastructure gaps in our state that must be filled in order to enhance the stability of our food system.”

The grants can be used for upgrading harvesting, processing, and packaging equipment or other infrastructure improvements.

“No match required, no minimum requested amount.” said Governor Mills. “No interest, no loan. It’s a grant.”

Ron Howard says the funding earlier in the year may have saved them, but applying for this new grant money will help make the future more secure.

“We’re at the stage in the wild blueberry industry where we have to scale up.”

A preliminary study by the University of Maine School of Economics and DACF estimates the investments could create more than 1,300 jobs and boost statewide sales revenue by more than 320-million dollars.

“When we grow and raise our own healthy food in our own fields and waters and sell it through our own shops through our own neighbors and friends, well, that’s a recipe for independence and sustainability.” Mills said. “For a healthy people, and a healthy economy.”

Applications for the grants will open in December. More information will be posted on the DACF website.

“I would encourage every Maine farm family to look into this very, very carefully. It can really make a big difference.” said Howard.

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