Weekly Democratic Address by Rep. Andy O’Brien (Lincolnville): Rep. O’Brien: Rural Maine farms critical to state’s economy

Posted on August 25, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

Listen here.

Good morning, I’m State Rep. Andy O’Brien from Lincolnville.

Thank you for tuning in.

This morning I wanted to talk about an issue that is critical to our state and our future – our farms in rural Maine.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to experience first-hand how important our farms are. I spent most of my life living on a small farm in Lincolnville – raking blueberries almost every summer since my childhood.

The blueberries, sweet corn, and tomatoes we love to purchase on the side of our rural roads are part of our state’s lore and heritage. More importantly, our farm stands, farms and the families that run them are critical to our economy and food security. A thriving rural economy depends on them.

This past week’s celebration of the Annual Maine Farm Days highlights the direction our state needs to move in order to bring back our rural economy. We have an opportunity to grow our local food and farm industry, which has a $1.2 billion impact on our state’s economy.

Unfortunately for the past two years, we’ve seen one policy after another that hurt rural Maine.

The governor and Republican allies have made it harder to live and work in rural Maine.
They refused to make needed investments in fixing our roads and bridges and undercut dedicated funds for road repair. Farmers can’t get their goods to market, if they don’t have good roads to travel on.

They made health care more expensive by passing a law that allows insurance companies to charge higher prices to those living in rural areas.

While several small rural schools in Waldo County were facing closure, they proposed using public dollars to fund private religious schools. If we want young families to farm in rural Maine, we need strong local schools for their children.

And more and more families in rural areas are facing higher property taxes, as the state shifted more and more costs to small towns during the past two years.

These policies will hurt rural Maine and some have already started to take their toll. Maine was among only a handful of states where the economy moved backwards last year.

Our local farm and food policy must be part of the economic equation to move us forward. We are seeing some promising trends in Maine farming.

There’s a huge growth in interest on the part of people in buying more food locally, whether it’s going to farmers markets, shopping directly at a farm, or joining a community agriculture program.
The average age of our farmers in Maine is going down because more young people are engaging in farming or staying on the farm. And the number of farms under
cultivation is actually increasing.

That’s why it is so important for our leaders to support policies that will help Maine farms and our rural economy prosper. That means supporting local roads, local schools, and hard working farm families across the state. We need to create more opportunities for accessing our food. During the past two years, I was proud to be part of an effort to ensure our Maine fruits, vegetables, meat and fish are used in school lunch programs.

We need the leaders of our state to support policies that help move rural Maine forward, not backwards.

Join me in urging our leaders to support rural Maine.

Thanks for listening I’m State Rep. Andy O’Brien.

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