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December 11, 2017
Politics & Co.

Federal grant to bolster farming efforts by vets and new Mainers

Cultivating Community in Portland will receive a $597,252 grant from the USDA to train and help support the growth of new American and veteran farmers in Maine.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-District 1, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee that oversees funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the grant will build "on recruitment, training and assistance efforts that have already led to the creation of over 50 new farms."

"It's been so exciting to see new groups of Mainers enter farming in recent years, thanks to organizations like Cultivating Community that have helped them get started and to grow their businesses. Agriculture has been especially beneficial in creating economic opportunities for Maine's New American and veteran populations," Pingree said in a press release.

Cultivating Community Executive Director Craig Lapine cited the need for Maine and New England in general to produce more of its own food.

"It's what's right for our people and our land and it's an increasingly important economic driver for the region," Lapine said.

The grant, which comes under the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, will be used to provide land access, new opportunities for product diversification and market access and four levels of training to new American, veteran and other small-scale producers. Among other initiatives, the project will expand an existing gardener-to-farmer pipeline, provide intensive training to new farmers at varying levels of expertise, and work to address land access issues.

This project builds on the success of existing training programs supported by beginning farmer grants in 2014 and 2009 that have resulted in the creation of 52 new farm businesses to date. The recent grant is expected to create another 30 farm businesses, provide intensive support to 12 new and beginning farmers and provide services to an additional 490 farmers and people exploring farming.

Cultivating Community's partners on the project are the Maine AgrAbility Program, the Somali Bantu Community Mutual Assistance Association of Lewiston-Auburn, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Maine Farmland Trust, Community Financial Literacy, and Coastal Enterprises Inc.

Millinocket Clinic aided by federal loan

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King announced that the Katahdin Valley Health Center was approved for a $2.2 million guaranteed loan through the USDA Rural Development's Community Facilities Guaranteed Loans program. The loan, which was provided through a partnership with Bangor Savings Bank, will be used to fund a renovation and expansion project at the Millinocket Clinic.

HUD grants $141,000 for affordable housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Indian Community Development Block Grant program awarded the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians $141,013 to assist with affordable housing, suitable living environments and economic opportunities, primarily for low- and moderate-income individuals and families.

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