The County Ag Report: Working Group Findings

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine - Spring will soon come to Aroostook County, but in the meantime, local officials have been working hard to figure out the specific agricultural needs of our area. Hollie Umphrey, Executive Director of the Central Aroostook Soil & Water Conservation District, is presiding over a group trying to meet those needs.

(Hollie) When we are dividing out the funding pools, when NRCS tries to put funding out, they want to make sure we are reaching the target.

(Randy) We try to prioritize what is going to be spent for 2020 and prioritize where the federal funding will go into the district, whether it be for crop land management, irrigation, forestry work, anything to do with natural resources.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS, is the United States Department of Agriculture service that will allocate the funds, and the distribution is based on local farmer input. District Forester Randy Lagasse was joined by various other growers and foresters in the area, and each shared their priorities and goals for funding in the Central Aroostook area.

(Barrett) Soil conservation in general. Takes a long, long time to generate top soil, we need to conserve what we have to work with. We also need to prioritize being able to grow food for ourselves here in the local neighborhood.

(Andrew) The most important thing from my aspect of having the organic farm is the pests. I'm creating a habitat that a beneficial insect like a predatory wasp will, over winter, be right there, ready to go. And it feeds off of the larva or the eggs off certain pests that, you know, cause problems for the potatoes or corn, or what have you.

(Bruce) This year, there was a consensus that we could put a bit more money toward the forestry side of things. I think that was positive. Now it's a matter of getting the word out to the landowners and farmers that this opportunity is out there.

Of the funding pool that NRCS will have available in 2020, 50% was designated for agricultural croplands, 35% for irrigation, 10% for forestry, and 5% of livestock. If and when the funds are appropriated, farmers still have to take action for a slice of the money.

(Hollie) Come in, sign up, get your farm registered, and we'll put some programs together.

Umphrey will head to Bangor this month to present the findings of this working group with other conservation districts from across the state.