Grower-friendly legislation in the works

12 years ago

By Jon Gulliver
Staff Writer

PRESQUE ISLE — The Maine Potato Board held its monthly meeting on Wednesday and it was mostly business as usual but board members did get some positive news on the legislative front.

Amendments to two bills currently working their way through the Maine Legislature make them friendlier to agriculture according to MPB officials.

LD 1865 is designed to coordinate school calendars between school districts that share a career and technical education centers. Since not all school districts in The County have a harvest recess, syncing calendars would be difficult, but an amendment to the bill, passed by both the House and Senate on April 9, provides regional school calendars for Aroostook County may have provisions for waivers of the number of dissimilar days for purposes of agricultural harvesting.

“The issue of five dissimilar days is no longer a reason to end harvest break,” said Tim Hobbs, director of development and grower relations for the Maine Potato Board.

Board Executive Director Don Flannery also informed board members on the latest involving the consolidation of the Departments of Conservation and Agriculture.

Flannery said the latest amendment to the measure would require the joint standing committee on agriculture in the legislature to have substantial input on the merger.

“Now the law directs the department to work with the committee to develop the plan and develop the legislation that has to be submitted,” said Flannery. “That makes our concerns go away a little bit, with the Ag committee involved through the summer doing this we are guaranteed of having the opportunity to have discussions and input.”

The amendment also puts a deadline of Dec. 3, 2014 for the final legislation for implementation.

“It puts a drop dead date of getting something done,” said Flannery. “If they miss that date it’s back to square one.”

Prior to the meeting board members held their first budget session of the calendar year. Budget discussions will resume at the June meeting, which has yet to be scheduled. The Maine Potato Board doesn’t meet in May as it is planting season.