Senators Susan Collins and Angus King today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded a grant totaling $388,000 to the University of Maine at Orono to study potato breeding and improve quality and pest resistance in the eastern United States.
“Maine potatoes are a staple in homes around the country and are a testament to the quality of our farmers and small businesses,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “This funding from the USDA will support the University of Maine’s cutting-edge research into potato breeding and help the state build on our strong agricultural traditions so we can make Maine potato products more economically resilient. We’re glad the Department of Agriculture recognizes the University of Maine’s innovative research and our state’s important role in the country’s agriculture.”
The grant, awarded through NIFA’s Potato Breeding Research Program, aims to increase the productivity, profitability, and natural resource stewardship of potato cultivation.
The University of Maine will serve as the lead on an eastern United States potato breeding project focused on developing attractive, productive, disease- and insect-resistant potato varieties for both large and small scale production. This will positively impact productivity and quality of eastern U.S. potatoes, while also decreasing the economic impact of pests.
Senators Collins and King have been longtime advocates for Maine’s agricultural heritage. In September, they introduced the bipartisan Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act, which would double the funding for two USDA export promotion programs and help U.S. farmers stay competitive in the global markets. Senator King recently attended the Harvest Festival in Bangor and met with members of the Maine Potato Board to highlight the CREAATE Act and the impact it would have on Maine’s local farmers.
The USDA NIFA invests in agricultural research and education through projects like the one at the University of Maine to directly support the prosperity of U.S. agriculture.