Bill to bolster drought relief program for farmers clears committee

AUGUSTA – Legislation from Sen. Henry Ingwersen, D-Arundel, intended to bolster a new drought relief program for Maine farmers earned unanimous support in the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee on Wednesday. 
LD 315, “An Act to Provide Funding for Drought Relief and Other Programs Benefiting Maine Farmers” would allow the state to take a more proactive role in helping farmers access efficient and reliable water sources for irrigation in the wake of recurring drought conditions. 
“Climate change and unprecedented drought are affecting the livelihoods of farms throughout the state of Maine,” said Sen. Ingwersen. “I’m excited for the opportunity for Maine farmers to have access to the resources and help they need to overcome this challenge. Hopefully, this legislation in tandem with the drought relief program we passed last year will provide a modicum of certainty to this industry in these uncertain times.”
In 2022, the Maine Legislature passed a new law from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to help farmers respond to drought conditions. The new law established a drought relief grant program for farmers. It also directed the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Land Use Planning Commission to make recommendations for streamlining permitting new sources of water for irrigation in Maine. LD 315 would implement these recommendations to help improve access to sustainable and reliable irrigation.
“Farming is a critical part of Maine’s heritage, character and economy. As extreme weather conditions persist, the state must partner with individual farmers and industry leaders and take proactive steps to protect this key economic sector and important part of who we are,” said President Jackson. “Establishing the drought relief program last year after conversations with County farmers was only the first step. This legislation from Sen. Ingwersen will ensure farmers can get the support, expertise and resources they need to respond to growing environmental threats. I hope the strong, bipartisan committee vote makes clear that this is a priority for the Maine Legislature.”
LD 315 will now go before the full Legislature for additional votes.

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