The Star-Herald

Committee approves economic task force

AUGUSTA, Maine  — The Legislature’s Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry amended and overwhelmingly approved a bill by Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash to establish a group of experts who will explore ways in which to expand economic opportunity in rural Maine.

Eleven of the 13 committee members voted in support of LD 1747, “Resolve, To Establish a Task Force To Examine Agricultural Issues.” The amended version of the bill made modest changes to the task force membership to include additional rural industries. It also extended the deadline for the task force’s report from November of 2018 to January of the following year.

“Rural Maine holds a lot of economic potential and a small, targeted investments can go a long way,” said Jackson. “This bill will give Mainers working in a number of rural industries the opportunity to share their experiences and help create long-term strategies to revitalize the economy in rural Maine.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to move this bill forward.”

The task force would be charged with examining challenges relating to investment and development, workforce training and labor shortages, as well as identifying marketing and branding opportunities. It would also examine how innovation, infrastructure and technology may play a role in long-term, sustainable rural success.

The amendment stipulates that the group be chaired by an economist from the University of Maine, and that the Maine Woodland Association be added to the membership list.

The bill faces votes in the House and Senate.

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