Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine in support of LD 1274, An Act To Increase Land Access For Historically Disadvantaged Populations
April 3, 2023
Senator Dill, Representative O’Neil, and Honorable Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry,
My name is Nancy Smith, I live in Ellsworth, and I am the CEO of GrowSmart Maine. We are a statewide non-partisan non-profit organization helping communities navigate change in alignment with smart growth. We advocate for comprehensive policies and funding for smart growth practices and outcomes.
I regret that I am unable to present this testimony in person, having served two terms on this important committee while working every day as co-owner of a diversified dairy farm.
GrowSmart Maine has partnered with Build Maine to guide a transparent crowd-sourcing of policy proposals that began a year ago, and has drawn together over a hundred people from across Maine and beyond. Policy Action 2023 has resulted in sixteen proposals from eight working groups, all addressing this goal, “to address barriers to and create incentives for equitable, sustainable growth and development that strengthens downtowns and villages of all sizes while pulling development pressure away from productive and open natural areas. We do so acknowledging that Maine has urban, rural, and suburban settings for which any solution may/not be a fit and a variety of people who deserve to be welcomed to their communities.” I’ve attached an information sheet for your review.
While this bill is not a part of that process, it addresses the goal of pulling development away from farmland by supporting productive use of this land, and restoring equity to Maine’s development and farmland protection efforts. By pairing access to farmland through agricultural land grants of up to 100 acres with programming to support socially disadvantaged groups with academic, vocational and social skills necessary to pursue long-term and productive careers in agriculture through apprenticeship, LD 1274 provides resources for long term success for populations long denied fair and equal access to either land or professional development resources. They have not been in a position to take over a family farm or learn from relatives the way many Maine farmers have. These investments will serve all of us well, as we need more people dedicated to food and fiber production across the state. GrowSmart Maine will assist the committee in any way that is helpful.