Maine Farmland Trust, Wolfe’s Neck Center Launch Maine Soil Health Network Healthy soil, and the…
MFT’s Policy and Research Team continue to work tirelessly in support of important advocacy efforts, and have made important progress in April 2021.
Federal Advocacy on Agriculture and Climate Change
On Earth Day, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree reintroduced the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA). This comprehensive legislation sets a roadmap to achieve net-zero emissions from agriculture by 2040 and empowers farmers with the tools and resources they need to improve soil health, sequester carbon, reduce emissions, enhance their resilience, and tap into new market opportunities. The bill focuses on six concrete policy areas, including: (1) agricultural research, (2) soil health, (3) farmland preservation, (4) pasture-based livestock management, (5) on-farm renewable energy, and (6) food waste initiatives. Congresswoman Pingree first introduced the legislation in the last Congress, and the ARA served as the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’ model for supporting agriculture as part of the climate solution. MFT will be working to support the ARA and advocate for its provisions to be included in the upcoming climate and infrastructure package, FY 2022 appropriations package, and the 2023 Farm Bill.
In April, MFT organized and participated in a meeting with Senator Collins’ staff and three farmers representing different segments of the agriculture sector in Maine to talk about the importance of soil health and of farmers having the tools they need to address climate change. MFT and the farmers encouraged Senator Collins to support congressional proposals to provide farmers with greater financial, research, and technical assistance to adopt climate smart practices.
Advocacy at the Maine Legislature
MFT’s Policy and Research team has been busy testifying during legislative hearings and meeting with legislators to advocate for policy and programmatic changes that would provide greater public support for farmland protection, the economic viability of farms, and practices that help to mitigate climate change and make farms more resilient. During the last month, MFT has testified to support new bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future Program (LDs 687 and 983), broadband expansion (LD 1235), and food processing infrastructure (LD 1475).
MFT also advocated for the inclusion of siting criteria in the evaluation process for new procurements of renewable energy so that projects that minimize impacts to natural and working lands are given more weight in the selection process (offered an amendment to LD 1350).
As part of our work to better understand the ways in which MFT’s programs interface with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, MFT testified in support of creating a permanent commission to study the impacts of agricultural policies on farmers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), particularly as those policies relate to both access to land and access to grants and financing (LD 870). We really appreciate all of the farmers who testified in support of these important pieces of legislation.
In the coming week, MFT is looking forward to testifying on behalf of a bill to expand infrastructure investments in the agricultural, food, and forest products economy (LD 1565).
Solar Siting Stakeholder Group
Ellen Griswold, MFT’s Policy and Research Director, will be participating in a solar siting stakeholder group that is being organized by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) and the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) to examine the status of solar energy development on agricultural lands, particularly prime soils and soils of statewide importance. The group will discuss potential solar siting policy levers (regulatory, voluntary, financial incentives, etc.), and identify areas of consensus. Members of the stakeholder group will include representatives of Maine’s agricultural community, renewable energy developers, municipal representatives, advocates, and relevant state agencies. The group will meet virtually between May and September and will provide a report to the Legislature in December 2021 regarding the group’s assessment and recommendations.