U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King announced on February 13 that the University of Maine’s (UMaine) Cooperative Extension Potato Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program has been awarded $553,486 to conduct further research on potato breeding in Maine. This funding was awarded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
“Maine’s potato industry is an integral part of our state’s heritage and plays a major role in our state’s economy,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “By investing in UMaine research to improve the potato’s resilience, this funding will support Maine farmers and ensure that this industry remains strong for generations to come.”
As one of four universities to receive this federal grant, UMaine aims to develop new varieties of stress-tolerant, disease- and insect-resistant potatoes that display hardy qualities and are visually aesthetic to enhance marketing opportunities, farm sustainability, and profits for large and small farms alike.
As a member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Collins worked to ensure that the recently enacted omnibus included $2.75 million—an increase of $250,000—for potato research, and $20 million for the USDA’s IPM program, which supports the work of UMaine’s Cooperative Extension Potato IPM program. Senator Collins opposed the Administration’s efforts to cut funding for programs like IPM that help farmers protect their crops from pests and diseases, explaining the necessity of such programs at a hearing on the USDA’s budget proposal last year.
Senator King has consistently advocated for Congress to appropriate federal funds for potato breeding research, and has repeatedly opposed the Trump Administration’s efforts to cut the program’s funding. The Administration’s FY 2021 budget again proposes zero funding for this vital program which supports Maine’s potato industry.