Senate Question 10-26-12 

Typically, there is an incumbent in the race for Maine’s seat in the U.S. Senate.This year, the field of candidates is all new, after U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe announced she’s not seeking re-election.TV 5 talked with the three frontrunners in the polls to fill her seat, asking them a number of questions about issues affecting mainers.Here’s Friday’s topic…Agriculture still plays a huge role in our state. What will you do to protect Maine’s farmers and encourage future growth in this industry?Charlie Summers: “Well, farmers is small business people, and again, I think that small businesses are key to our economy, they’re the innovators, they’re the people who just come out and make our economy turn every single day and farmers need, again, to have access to local markets. I’m a big proponent of buying local and growing local. I think that that’s good for our Maine economy and I, having grown up in a rural area, I’m a very, very strong supporter of the farms. Particularly, I mean you look in Aroostook County, you look at Washington County and all of the other rural counties that we have, you know, the farmers are the, really the backbone of our economy, the backbone, of the breadbasket for the world, and I want to be there to support them. “Angus King:”Well, the first answer is, how ’bout passing a farm bill in Washington, because it’s been a political football, it’s still stalled, its a good example of why the whole institution isn’t working and people are being hurt by it, so that would be, that would be one thing. But I got to tell yah, as I traveled the state in my campaign, agriculture, local agriculture, has been a real bright spot. There’s a lot going on in this state. There’s a new Grist mill, a flour mill over in Skowhegan in the jail house. You ought to go and do a story, it’s fascinating. And small agriculture, C-S-As, vegetables, fifty million dollars a week worth of food, comes over the bridge at Kittery, into Maine. What if we could just capture, you know, ten or fifteen percent of that, and keep that money here? It would be great, and one of the good news points is, for the first time in living memory, the average age of farmers in Maine is coming down. And I think that’s really cool. So, yes we got the Farm Bill, but there are all kinds of other we’ve got, we should be having, and not necessarily aid, but information, business plan support, because farming is a business, lots of opportunities, but I’ve been excited by what I’ve seen in Aroostook County and Penobscot and over in Somerset, all over the state and southern Maine. Things are really great, what’s happening in agriculture and I just think we need to apply our good, ole’ Maine creativity and know-how, and we can make it really happen. “Cynthia Dill:”You know, Maine farming is so exciting: we have more younger farmers than, virtually, any other state, we are increasing the amount of acreage going into farming as opposed to decreasing, which is incredibly exciting. I would support really quality programs, like the Maine Farmland Trust. I would support Congresswoman Pingree’s attempts to broaden farmer’s access to markets by allowing farmer’s markets to sell products to families who use SNAP benefits, for instance. We really need to increase the processing and deregulate the burdensome processing of foods, for instance, when we were in Aroostook County, there was an organic cow farmer, who that produces organic beef, but he has to transport his cows hundreds of miles to be processed, which is not only costly, but it impacts negatively the quality of the beef and it’s just completely inconvenient, so we need to make sure that these blossoming farms that are so incredibly exciting and good and wholesome, have the ability to access markets, access capital, and access processing plants, so that we can, you know, turn some of these great foods into products that have higher value, and will really lift the quality of life for farming in Maine. It’s, it’s really, it’s a priority of mine. I’m a huge support of locally produced, healthy food. “