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Maine House Speaker Hannah Pingree gives a speech after being sworn in in January 2009. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Proposed grants & loans to assist Maine’s seafood and agriculture business

By Ramona du Houx

April 8th, 2009

Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree introduced legislation that would create local jobs, support Maine’s traditional industries, and protect the Maine brand. The legislation calls for greater support for Maine’s working waterfronts, creating a fund to protect working farms from development, and would assist businesses seeking to process Maine seafood, produce, or livestock.

“Maine needs to protect traditional industries and maintain the integrity and strength of the Maine brand,” said Speaker Pingree. “This bill provides a comprehensive approach to protecting and promoting agriculture and fishing in Maine in these economic hard times.”

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Pingree’s bill stands out because it strategically invests funds for processing grants and loans for seafood or agriculture, to give these industries a needed boost. Maine exports most of the lobster catch to Canada, where they add value, making substantial profits. Pingree’s proposal could help turn the tide, creating jobs in Maine in the processing sector for seafood and agricultural products.

“Maine does not have sufficient processing capacity for seafood, particularly lobster, and does not have sufficient organic slaughterhouse capacity to support our current livestock population,” said Pingree. “If we are to continue to support food production in Maine, we should do our best to ensure we create jobs in Maine and produce the best products we can.”

The legislation calls for $5.5 million to create the Maine Farmland Fund, $5 million for the Finance Authority of Maine for the purpose of providing grants and loans for food processing for fishing and agriculture industries, and $5.5 million to recapitalize the already establish Maine Working Waterfront program.

Pingree said the bill works in conjunction with the governor’s bond proposal to increase the Land for Maine’s Future funding and with the Working Waterfront bond proposal.

Pingree fears that in these increasingly difficult economic times there is an increased chance that these prime waterfront locations could be lost forever to development.

“Maine’s connection to the land and the sea are an important part of the Maine mystique,” said Pingree. “But most importantly, it will help to preserve and create jobs in Maine’s traditional fishing and farming industries.”