Maine farmers optimistic about industry | News

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Maine farmers optimistic about industry

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The mood was an optimistic one as the doors opened on the 71st Maine Agricultural Trade Show at the Augusta Civic Center.

"We are right posed on the edge of some tremendous success stories," stated Walt Whitcomb, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture.  "We are seeing growth in the dairy sector, we are seeing growth in the potatoes - those basic industries.  Blueberry fields in central Maine were a dismal failure, in eastern Maine we were seeing record crops."

"A lot of things are happening, but there are still more things we can do," explained John Jemison, an extension specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Jemison presented the findings of an extensive study done to determine where Maine farmers see their industry heading in the future. 

He says high energy costs and a lack of infrastructure such as processing facilities are some of the challenges facing the industry.

"When we talked to the farmers last year about what they are optimistic about, they are optimistic about the interest in buying local food - which is really important, and they are optimistic about the land resource that we have and the water resource that we have," he added.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farms -- that includes food crops, animal products and tree farms in Maine -- is holding steady at just over 8,000 compared to about 7,000 a decade ago.  About 85 percent of those farms are owned by individuals or families.

In 2010 alone, those farms sold more than $720 million in products, up from $664 million just a year earlier.




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