Investments in Maine Agriculture

2018 Specialty Crop Block Grants Announced

Agriculture Commissioner Walter Whitcomb has announced that Maine is partnering with USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to invest $538,073 to support Maine Specialty Crop Producers. The Agricultural Resource Development division of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) administers the program, with nine new projects selected for 2018. This annual program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and supports producers with projects designed to improve competitiveness, technology, or product safety.

Since 2006, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has awarded over $5.2 million dollars to the Maine DACF to support the growing number of specialty crop producers who are selling into local and regional markets. Each year, the Maine DACF accepts applications for Specialty Crop Block Grants, evaluating proposals in a competitive, statewide process. The program provides federal funding to projects identified as critical at the local level. Past and current awards have supported research into Maine’s most crucial agricultural commodities, development of pest management strategies, school initiatives, and food safety projects. Funds have been used to improve harvests of blueberries, potatoes, maple syrup, hops, honey, and other crops.

For a complete list of funded projects, read here. This year’s recipients with projects that impact the Maine potato industry are

University of Maine ($70,539) – Developing Sulfur Recommendations for Maine potato growers

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension will develop sulfur recommendation for Maine potato growers to improve Maine potato yield and quality. Objectives of this study are to create robust sulfur recommendations, with multiple sites that will include varied soil textures, soil moisture, and weather conditions. Yield, quality, soil moisture, weather data, uptake, tissue sampling, and soil physical, chemical, and biological data will be used for this study.

Maine Potato Board ($100,000) – Maine potato cropping system lacks diversity to remain financially and environmentally sustainable.

Over the past three years the Maine Potato Board (MPB) has taken a lead role in promoting and researching alternative cash crops and cover crops that can be successfully grown in conjunction with potatoes. Improving soil health and conservation and producing alternative cash crops continue to be high priorities for potato producers throughout Maine. Growers who have adopted longer potato rotations are realizing the environmental and economic benefits that accompany these diverse cropping systems.

University of Maine ($99,571) – Maine Potato Integrated Pest Management – 2019

The management of insects, diseases, and other pests is integral to sustaining the $500 million Maine potato industry. Without reliable and sustainable pest management strategies, potato growers face the potential for severe crop losses resulting in significant reductions in profits and threats to long-term viability. To ensure an adequate response to the pest-related hazards confronting potato growers, the University of Maine System, acting through the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Potato Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program, will provide support through field monitoring, disease forecasting, and distribution of educational materials.