On Wednesday, March 30th, the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources held a Public Hearing on LD 159, “An Act to Foster Economic Development of the Laws Governing Site Location of Development and Storm Water Management”, sponsored by Senator Thomas Saviello. In a well attended and sometimes heated hearing, Senator Saviello offered testimony which supported the basic elements of his bill.
As a part of our commitment to strengthening Maine’s economy, GrowSmart Maine is particularly enthusiastic about well grounded, thoughtful and creative proposals which seek to grow the economy in a sustainable manner while at the same time preserving our state’s unique character and quality of place. It is clear that the proposals featured in LD 533 fit these challenging criteria and are thus deserving of enthusiastic support from GrowSmart Maine.
I hope the committee and the assembled stakeholders will be able to define a single objective with which to frame the discussion of LD 159, and that an appropriate solution is found that will allow developers to focus on meeting market demand while allowing DEP to achieve its mission. At GSM, we focus our work at the intersection of economic development and conservation. It is not as simple as choosing between the two, or striking a balance where each is harmed equally; our work is to identify and facilitate opportunities for sustainable economic growth in ways that do not harm, and can actually build upon, our unique and invaluable quality places. An appropriate amendment to LD 159 would do just that.
As a part of our commitment to strengthening Maine’s economy, GrowSmart Maine is particularly enthusiastic about well grounded, thoughtful and creative proposals which seek to grow the economy in a sustainable manner while at the same time preserving our state’s unique character and quality of place. We believe this bill fits that description. The viability of the natural resource sector is a priority for GrowSmart Maine. Our working farms, forests, and waterfront contribute to our economy and to Maine’s unique sense of place. This legislation, in removing an unreasonable risk associated with land ownership, addresses a significant challenge to profitably running a natural-resource sector business come with land ownership.
GrowSmart Maine has received a $25,000 grant from The Old Bug Light Charitable Fund to update their web site and communications software and to expand its ReEnvisioning the Highway Strip project to include a demonstration site.
GSM supports this legislation because, if improvements can be made in this area of regulation, we will be making great strides in value-added processing for Maine farmers. This is key to the viability of our farms across the state. Demand for local meats and poultry is strong and growing, and this line of products can be profitable for farmers.
This bill brings farms stands to the same standard required of vendors at farmers’ markets. People assume they are buying from local farmers, and make the extra effort to shop at both farmers’ markets and farm stands for this reason. While the quality of the product may be evident at the point of sale, the origin is not. Disclosure of the origin of products offered for sale ensures the credibility of all farm stands, allowing customers to be confident that they are indeed supporting Maine’s farmers when they buy at a farm stand.
In particular, GSM strongly supports the directive to the Department of Agriculture to pursue ways of reducing the regulatory barriers to small scale food production in Maine. We realize that the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources is, in many instances, accountable to the USDA, and in this process we want to ensure that the state agriculture department’s authority to oversee and enforce federal regulations is not put at risk.
In short, we strongly support the more efficient use of existing resources to promote smart growth transportation policies and programs which reduce wear and tear and our existing highways, reduce commuting costs and promote alternative modes of transportation.
As we seek efficiency in government, outlined in the recently published study “Reinventing Maine Government”, which was commissioned by GrowSmart Maine, the focus must be on effective outcomes; i.e. results. While the variety of resources available may seem overwhelming at first glance, it is important to note that a coordinated effort already exists among the different economic development tools available.