Governor Paul LePage announced legislation today that would merge the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources with the Maine Department of Conservation into a single Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The goal of the legislation is to strengthen Maine's natural-resource economy in the areas of forestry, farming and conservation. This legislation is expected to go to the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry for consideration and approval.
"Farming and forestry are an important part of Maine's heritage, and can play a significant role in our economic engine," said Governor LePage. "These industries are important to Maine's future, and it is important we maximize the potential of our natural resource-based economy to provide jobs and economic prosperity to Maine people."
Agriculture Commissioner Walter Whitcomb, Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley, along with many leaders in the natural resource industry, support the Governor's plan. Many agree that there is a possibility to greatly enhance Maine's forestry and farming industries, while capitalizing on our natural resources.
"Growing Maine's natural economy while protecting its long term productivity needs the support of more concentrated services from a single department," noted Commissioner Whitcomb.
"The sustainable goals envisioned by Maine farmers, forest owners and those who use the parks and public lands will be better coordinated by merging the wide array of resource related skills within the talented workforce of these two departments," added Whitcomb.
"Agriculture and forestry, conservation and public access to Maine's natural resources are all intertwined," said Commissioner Beardsley. "A merger that yokes the two departments simply makes sense. By combining forces, we can focus on the scientific foundation and the common ground we share as we pursue a 21st-century natural-resource economy for Maine," Beardsley continued.
Representative Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, is the lead sponsor of the bill and has been involved in the farm community his entire life. "It makes sense to combine the resources of both departments to emphasize the importance of being good stewards of Maine's land," said Representative Timberlake.