Maine is planning to merge its Department of Agriculture with its Department of Conservation, leading some farmers and foresters to worry about the future of both industries.
Like most of the country, Maine is still struggling with the effects of the economic recession. With unemployment high, revenues down, and state governments looking to cut spending, various bureaucratic agencies are expected to operate more efficiently. Recently passed Maine law merging the Departments of Agriculture and Conservation, a law that goes into effect at the end of August, hopes to increase departmental efficiency and reduce unnecessary spending.
This proposal has worried some Maine residents, particularly farmers and foresters. Some farmers are worried that the merger will undermine farmers’ unique identity in the state and are pushing the state legislature to repeal the law. Some foresters are also worried that the merger will cut into their funding. According to the president of a prominent Maine lumber company, “They’re bleeding our funds to help other industries. I just don’t want to see us go down any lower on the food chain.”
Other foresters worry that the merger could reduce their already limited political influence. According to the president of the Maine Forest Products Council, “The thing that makes us nervous is farmers are loved. In the Legislature when a farmer talks, everybody stops playing with their iPads and listens. Farmers have clout, but we are bigger.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer