Entries Filed in 'Community Maine'

Maine small businesses to create over 20 new jobs with federal Value Added Producer Grants

August 20th, 2014 · No Comments · Community Maine

Five Maine small businesses would receive a total of $471,571 in federal Value Added Producer Grants from the USDA. Funding for the program has risen dramatically—from $15 million to $63 million over five years—thanks to Pingree’s successful efforts to have an increase included in the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Value Added Producer Grants are critical investments to help small food producers like the ones we have in Maine take their businesses to the next level. These funds allow them to expand their operations, find new markets, and develop new products,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “I couldn’t be happier that the increased funding will allow more Maine producers to take this opportunity, creating and saving dozens of jobs in the process. It’s exciting to see the new innovations this diverse set of recipients will create with this investment.”

The 2014 Farm Bill, which sets the nation’s agriculture policy every five years, was signed into law by President Obama earlier this year. Pingree wrote and advocated for numerous provisions that will promote local agriculture, sustainable farming, and help young farmers.

The funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Value-Added Producer Grant program.

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178,000 people in Maine rely on food banks every month- LePage policies hurt

August 19th, 2014 · No Comments · Community Maine

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

One in seven Americans relies on food pantries and meal service programs, according to a new study from the Feeding America Food Bank Network. Nationwide, that amounts to more than 46 million people, which includes 12 million children, out of a country of 316 million. Hunger has become an epidemic in the U.S.A.

For Maine that means more than 178,000 citizens use food banks to keep alive. The study showed Maine food banks receive an average of 11 visits per year from families. Having to go to a food bank every month, on average, is a significant hardship.

“People are coming back, they’re needing to come back to their local pantry month after month,” said Clara Whitney who is with Maine’s Good Shepherd Food Bank, which is part of Feeding America’s network of food pantries. “Our pantry network has become a huge part of how Maine families are accessing food on a monthly basis.”

About 15 percent of Mainers experience hunger, and that number’s been increasing since Governor Paul LePage was elected four years ago along with significant food stamp cut backs from Congress.

LePage made part of his platform out of cutting back “social services” to those in need while he gave Maine’s 1 percent a hefty tax break. For average homeowners LePage’s policies have led to property tax increases as local towns have had to make up for funds they used to get from former state revenue sharing policies.

Since LePage took office, Maine has experienced a job creation record among the worst in the U.S., ranking 46th out of 50 states in the latest report (July 2014). Additionally, Maine has the 6th highest rate in the country of people who work only part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs.

Under his predecessor, Governor John Bladacci over 310 companies recieved Pine Tree Development Zone Status, a tax incentive program which grew thousands of jobs in the state. The jobless rate was under 7 percent, and the state had a surplus.

Now, with LePage, the state has had the second worst personal income growth record in the U.S., ranking 49th from 2009 through 2013. Plus, median household income is down $1,600 and $4,600 below the U.S. median.

Business Insider and CNBC recently ranked the state among the worst in the nation for business climate.


Congressman Mike Michaud: His passion to help people and his economic policies

July 25th, 2014 · No Comments · Community Maine, Creative Economy, Economy, Exclusive Interviews, Issue 41

Mike Michaud helped secure funds for UMaine's first in the Americas floating wind turbine project, VoltunUS. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Mike Michaud helped secure funds for UMaine’s first in the Americas floating wind turbine project, VoltunUS. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Back in 2005 the Federal Government’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission announced that there would be closures of military bases across the country. Maine was targeted at three major facilities: Kittery-Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Brunswick Naval Air Station (BNAS) and Defense Finance and Accounting Services Center (DFAS) in Limestone.

The State’s Congressional Delegation swung into action along with Gov. John Baldacci, and the communities effected. Press conferences and meetings were held at each threatened facility, sometimes one a day at each location, and Congressman Mike Michaud was at the majority of them, from promoting the attributes of workers in Limestone to rallying shipyard employees in Portsmouth. He fought for the workers and their communities in Portsmouth and BNAS in Maine and D.C., even though those bases were not in his congressional district.

After ten years of reporting on the Congressman’s activities, I’ve learned that there is nothing more important to him that making sure the people of Maine are treated fairly and have good paying jobs with healthcare benefits.

Congressman Mike Michaud gives a shipyard union leader a congratulatory hug for helping to Save the Shipyard from BRAC closure in 2003. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Congressman Mike Michaud gives a shipyard union leader a congratulatory hug for helping to Save the Shipyard from BRAC closure in 2003. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Recently we talked about his economic development plans for Maine.

Q: What is your highest priority?


My biggest priority is building a Maine economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthiest among us. That starts with job creation, but it also means an intense focus on education, starting with early childhood, and continuing through college; it means a higher minimum wage and expanded access to health care for nearly 70,000 Mainers, and 3,000 veterans; and it means empowering business to grow and expand.

Under Gov. LePage and his failed policies, Maine has lagged behind the rest of New England in private-sector job growth. His “open for business” policy is nothing but rhetoric. He’s actually driven hundreds of millions of dollars of private-sector investment out of the state.

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Waterville’s potential as Maine’s art hub grows with Common Street Arts

July 25th, 2014 · No Comments · Arts & Entertainment, Community Maine, Creative Economy, Issue 41

Rachel McDonald,  Common Street Arts program manager, explains CSA workshops. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Rachel McDonald, Common Street Arts program manager, explains CSA workshops. Photo by Ramona du Houx

In the heart of downtown Waterville, 16 Common Street, there is a relatively new non-profit arts organization that is helping to build the city’s creative economy with exhibits and arts education. This summer the line up of workshops offered by Common Street Arts (CSA) is truly impressive, and so are it’s shows.

“At the core we are a cooperative arts and education venue that is divided into two spaces. The gallery presents excellent art of all sorts from a wide range of emerging artists to more established artists and people in between. The studio side provides educational programs,” said Rachel McDonald, who has been Common Street Arts program manager since August after leaving a position at the Portland Museum of Art.

“I jumped at this opportunity— to build up the organization. That’s what I’m passionate about,” said McDonald.

Art on exhibit at CSA, Waterville. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Art on exhibit at CSA, Waterville. Photo by Ramona du Houx

The Maine non-profit 501-c-4 gallery has around eight juried and curated exhibitions per year and the community responds. The openings, with local foods and wine, always have tremendous turnouts.

“Creating a space for people to view art is essential for any downtown to help grow it’s creative economy,” said McDonald. “The Waterville community has been great coming out for our openings. We sometimes have a film events where we collaborate with Colby cinema studies. Other times we’ve had musicians play and artists talk about their work and give lectures.”

CSA has become a community center for arts in Waterville.

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Maine becomes first east coast state to study, plan, and prepare for ocean acidification

July 25th, 2014 · No Comments · Community Maine, Economy, Environment, Issue 41, Science

Ocean acidification, in Maine, could dramatically hurt fisherman's livelihoods. photo by Ramona du Houx

Ocean acidification, in Maine, could dramatically hurt fisherman’s livelihoods. photo by Ramona du Houx

Research tells us the world’s ocean water is becoming more acidic, and that endangers shellfish and other marine animals. Marine scientists are worried and so are businesses that rely on the ocean for their livelihoods. To better understand the problem and to help find solutions the Maine Legislature voted overwhelmingly to form the Maine Ocean Acidification Commission. The 16-member panel was announced on the Portland waterfront with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. The Congresswoman has introduced a bill that would require federal officials to study the effects of ocean acidification on coastal communities in Maine and around the country.

“Ocean acidification could be a real threat to the fisheries that are the lifeblood of coastal communities. The truth is we don’t fully understand how it would impact a vital industry like the lobster fishery and what the effect would be on Maine,” said Pingree. “We know what’s causing ocean acidification but now we need to better understand how hard it is going to hit coastal economies.”

Under Pingree’s legislation, the Secretary of Commerce would be required to conduct studies to identify which communities are most dependent on ocean resources and how acidification would affect them if valuable industries were impacted.

“Maine is taking the lead on ocean acidification on the Eastern seaboard. We understand that it is a real threat to our marine environment, jobs and way of life,” said Rep. Mick Devin, the House chair of the State Commission and a marine biologist who sponsored the legislation that created the panel.

Lobsterman selling his catch in Belfast, Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Lobsterman selling his catch in Belfast, Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx

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Neil Rolde’s new book: Real Political Tales- Short Stories by a Veteran Politician

July 25th, 2014 · No Comments · Books, Community Maine, Creative Economy, Issue 41, Neil Rolde

Author/politician, Neil Rolde talks about his new book. photo by Ramona du Houx

Author/politician, Neil Rolde talks about his new book. photo by Ramona du Houx

Author/Statesman Neil Rolde has written a work of fiction focused on his experiences called Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician.

“If you’ve ever served in a state legislature, lobbied one, or just read about their activities in the newspaper and wondered what goes on behind the scenes, you’ll love this book! From page one I couldn’t put it down and I loved every word of Neil’s stories crafted from ‘behind the scenes’ in the Maine legislature,” wrote Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in the book. “The characters may be fictional, but thanks to Neil’s insights and knowledge, coupled with his wonderful writing style, they all came to life.”

Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician is published by Maine’s Polar Bear & Company.

“The personal element is stronger in the affairs of legislative bodies than of any other branch of government, but it is a hard thing to convey in straight reporting. The public understanding of the legislative process is poorer as a result. As an experienced and influential legislator, with a great gift for storytelling, Neil Rolde is the ideal person to remedy this defect, and this volume of Political Tales delivers on that promise,” wrote U.S. House of Representative Barney Frank in the book. “The stories are educational and entertaining in equal measure, and people who read them will be better prepared to understand what goes on when legislators meet and transact important public business.”

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Report shows Maine leading the way in farming revival

July 18th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Community Maine, Farming, Issue 41, Issues

Organic Farm, photo by Ramona du Houx

Organic Farm, photo by Ramona du Houx

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that farming in Maine is on the increase, with Maine leading New England in the number of farms in operation.

“The farm economy in Maine is alive and well and growing,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “It’s grown by almost 25 percent over five years and Maine farmers are younger and more likely to be women than in the country overall. And CSAs are more popular in Maine than in nearly any other state in the country.”

According to Gary Keough, a statistician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, agriculture sales increased by 24 percent from 2007 to 2012. The average age for Maine farmers is 1.3 years younger than the national average, and 29 percent of Maine farmers are women, compared to just 17 percent nationally. And Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangements, where consumers pay a fixed price for a share of a farm’s output, are more popular in Maine than almost anywhere else in the country, with Maine ranking third in the number of farms participating in CSAs.

“You can see Maine people take high quality local food and farming seriously,” said Pingree. “Just look at the growth of organic farming, which increased by over 50 percent in five years.”

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Michaud and Pingree help restore funding for tidal power in Federal Spending Bill

July 11th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Community Maine, Energy Issues

Congressman Michael Michaud and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree helped restore $9 million in funding for a program that has already invested over $18 million in Maine tidal projects since 2008. Michaud, who had previously led a House effort to support funding for the program, joined Pingree, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, to successfully push for an amendment to the bill that sets spending levels for the Department of Energy. Their amendment, which was also sponsored by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, passed the House today by a wide margin, including the support of dozens of Republicans.

“The Water Power Program supports critical private-sector research, development, deployment and commercialization for marine hydrokinetic energy technology developed here in Maine,” said Michaud. “Other countries have already shown interest, presenting great opportunities for exporting American technology. Now is not the time for a drastic cut to this important program. I look forward to working with the Senate to increase funding even more.

The amendment restores $9 million in cuts to the portion of the Department of Energy budget that funds the Marine and Hyrdokinetic Energy Program. That program promotes research and development of emerging technology that generates clean energy from the nation’s oceans and rivers. Michaud and Pingree’s amendment pays for the restored funding by cutting the budget for the Department of Energy’s administrative expenses.

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Maine panel tasked to create a plan to improve access to food for hungry children meets

July 8th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Community Maine, Public Safety

Maine State Capitol photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol photo by Ramona du Houx

The Task Force to End Student Hunger convened yesterday in Augusta for its first of five meetings focused on developing a multi-year plan to improve access to food for students and end child hunger in Maine.

During today’s meeting, the panel focused on gaining an understanding of the scope of hunger among school-aged children in Maine and the numerous programs and agencies involved in providing meals to Maine’s students.

“The reality is that student hunger connects every part of our state. It is a Maine problem,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland, who serves as the co-chair of the task force. “If we want our students to be successful then we must improve the reality that almost one in four school-aged children in Maine is hungry.”

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Federal lawsuit alleges more than 250 violations during Maine’s 2008 Blueberry Harvest

July 7th, 2014 · No Comments · Civil Rights, Community Maine

Late last week, Pine Tree Legal Assistance filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court on behalf of 18 farmworkers claiming multiple egregious violations of federal law by a farm labor recruiter, two Maine employers, and several housing providers, during the 2008 blueberry harvest.

The lawsuit alleges that more than 250 violations of the federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (AWPA) during the 2008 blueberry harvest. Maine is the leading producer of wild blueberries, harvesting 91.1 million pounds of wild blueberries in 2012, according to the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistic Service.

“The defendants’ blatant disregard of the legal protections for migrant farmworkers who harvest Maine’s blueberry crop established a pattern of unscrupulous practices that is deplorable, illegal, and should not be tolerated in our state,” said Nan Heald, executive director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance.

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