Maine Potato Board joins natural resource network

18 years ago

 AUGUSTA, Maine – Several Maine natural resource sector groups recently announced the formation of a new coalition, Maine’s Natural Resource Network, whose mission will be to inform Maine’s policymakers and citizens about the issues that are considered most critical to the long-term success of their sectors.
    At a press conference held Dec. 4 at the Statehouse, spokespeople from the fishing, farming, forestry and traditional recreation sectors released a policy document that is designed to identify and explain the policy priorities for the citizens of Maine who make their living in, and recreate on, Maine’s forests, farmlands, and coastal waters.
“With the changes in Maine’s community and economy over the last several years,” said Donovan Todd III, president of the Maine Potato Board, “fewer Mainers than ever have a close connection to the Maine landscape and those of us who make our living on it.
“Our goal is to reach out to Maine citizens, and to the policymakers who represent all of us, in order to reestablish that connection so that our businesses can continue to grow and be a major player in Maine’s economy and, more directly, in Maine’s rural communities.”
The policy document articulates more than a dozen issues, categorized broadly under such headings as “Taxation,” “Health Care,” and “Information and Education,” which coalition participants concluded are of utmost importance to the state’s traditional natural resource sector.
According to Donald Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board, the idea for Maine’s Natural Resource Network came about following the last days of the 2005 regular session.
“There was a group of natural resource people saying, ‘We don’t have a lot of resources – human and financial – and we’ve got to figure out a way that we can work together and put out the issues facing the natural resource industry as it relates to public policy,’” said Flannery. “‘We’ve got to be more effective in how we work together and making sure the Legislature addresses our needs and does not harm us.’
“In July, the Maine Potato Board and the Maine Forest Products Council sat down together and said, ‘How can we do this?’” he said. “In early August, we had a meeting of what we would call stakeholders in each of these natural resource sectors and discussed public policy, issues facing our industries, and what we need to have in Maine to make sure that we can continue to be here.”
Recognizing that the natural resource sector groups are all competing in the global marketplace, Flannery said there can’t be public policy in Maine that is “putting us at a competitive disadvantage to other areas.”
“If that happens, we’re going to lose those natural resource businesses that we have,” he said.
Organizations comprising the Network include the Maine Forest Products Council, Maine Potato Board, Wild Blueberry Commission, Maine Aquaculture Association, Maine Farm Bureau, Maine Snowmobile Association, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine,     Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, Maine Dairy Industry Association, Maine Lobstermen’s Association, Maine Trappers Association, Maine Professional Guides Association, and the Friends of the Allagash.
“It’s a pretty influential group when you start standing around the halls of Augusta,” said Flannery.
In the weeks ahead, the coalition will present the policy guidelines to members of the 123rd Maine Legislature, as well as using the guidelines to shape specific goals and initiatives for the upcoming Legislative session.
“It’s our responsibility to go to the Legislature and tell them, ‘Here are some things that we think need to be addressed so we remain competitive and be able to expand in Maine,’” Flannery said. “We also need to review legislation and, either as a group or individually, make comments and be involved with those things that we see could impact us.
“The Network will be proactive in putting forth our agenda, and be proactive in looking at legislation that could impact us in some way,” he said.
Flannery said there is no corporate structure to the Network, nor is there any administration positions.
“Right now, the executive directors of those organizations are sharing the responsibilities. If we’re successful in Augusta, we’ll see what we need to change to continue to be successful. We’ll know that we’re successful if we can influence public policy and be successful in putting some of our agenda items forth and have success getting them implemented. The success and failure will be very easy to determine.
“We will divvy up the cost of having the meeting in August, the cost of creating and printing the policy document, and we’ll probably have some sort of a reception in Augusta,” he said. “There’s no administrative cost to being in the Network.”
Flannery called the policy document a “good working document.”
“We still have to develop the detail,” he said, “but it has the guiding principles that everybody has agreed to and can accept. It gives us something positive to work with.”