Governor Paul LePage announced today a plan that would merge the State of Maine Agriculture Department and Conservation Department into a single division in an effort to strengthen the natural resource economy in areas of conservation, farming and forestry. The change would need legislative approval and enabling legislation is currently being drafted.
"Farming and forestry can be a significant part of our economic engine, and both these industries are important to Maine's future," said Governor LePage. "These two departments are very similar and today divide funding resources from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It makes sense for these two agencies to work closer together towards economic prosperity."
Agriculture Commissioner Walter Whitcomb, Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley and many farming and forestry industry leaders support the Governor's proposal agreeing the benefits of the plan are substantial.
"Commissioner Beardsley and I share the Governor's view that the producers of food and fiber have a great deal in common. The combination of our two support agencies can result in more availability of state service to farm crops and timber producers. We all want to expand these industries to provide more products to consumers in state, out of state and off shore," said Commissioner Whitcomb.
"Conservation, state parks, public access to Maine's great outdoors, farming and forestry and Maine's physical landscape are central components of Maine's iconic brand. They are inseparable as we strive to revitalize and enhance Maine's natural resource economy. In addition to scale and economies it would be great to have all of this under one roof," said Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley.
About the Department of Agriculture: The Maine Department of Agriculture's goals include expanding Maine agriculture by making the state a leader in innovative approaches to profitability; creating opportunities for Maine citizens to succeed in agriculture; and ensuring a safe, wholesome, and high-quality food supply.
About the Department of Conservation: The Maine Department of Conservation is a natural resource agency whose bureaus oversee the management, development and protection of some of Maine's most special places: 17 million acres of forest land, 10.4 million acres of unorganized territory, 48 parks and historic sites and more than 590,000 acres of public-reserved and non-reserved land.