Maine Revised Statutes

§163. Pilot program for establishing agricultural districts and agriculture enhancement groups

The commissioner may establish a pilot program to examine the effectiveness of agricultural districts in keeping farmland in agricultural production and enhancing the profitability of farming. For the purposes of this section, "pilot program" means an agricultural districts program that allows farmers to propose that the department designate their farmland as an agricultural district where commercial agriculture is encouraged and farmland protected through collaborative efforts at the state and local level. [2009, c. 356, Pt. A, §2 (NEW).]

1. Eligibility criteria for agricultural districts.  In order to be eligible to participate in the pilot program, farms must form agricultural districts. An agricultural district must be composed of 3 or more farms that are located in geographic proximity to each other, produce similar types of agricultural products or share common marketing interests. The commissioner shall review eligibility criteria for participants in agricultural districts in other states and may develop additional criteria for participation with the pilot program, including, but not limited to, minimum acreage and farm income thresholds.
[ 2009, c. 356, Pt. A, §2 (NEW) .]
2. Benefits.  The commissioner shall review benefits accruing to participants in agricultural districts in other states. Prior to initiating the pilot program, the commissioner shall develop a description of potential benefits accruing to participants in a pilot program. Potential benefits may include, but are not limited to, scoring bonuses for competitive grants, loans or business assistance programs and for project proposals screened for submission to the Land for Maine's Future Fund under Title 5, section 6203. The commissioner shall consult with other agencies administering programs affected by the proposed benefits.
[ 2009, c. 356, Pt. A, §2 (NEW) .]
3. Selection of regions.  The commissioner shall distribute a description of the purpose and potential benefits of forming an agricultural district. Distribution may be through public agencies and private organizations that have regular contact with farmers in the State. The description must be posted on the department's publicly accessible website. The description notice must include information on how to contact the department to express interest in learning more about or participating in an agricultural district.
Based on the response to the initial solicitation, the commissioner may designate one or more districts. Prior to making a selection, the commissioner shall communicate with local or regional planning commissions and state, local or regional land trusts to ascertain their willingness to participate in efforts to protect farmland in the proposed districts.
If more than one district is designated for the pilot program, the commissioner shall strive to select districts in different parts of the State or different sectors of the State's agricultural economy.
[ 2009, c. 356, Pt. A, §2 (NEW) .]
2009, c. 356, Pt. A, §2 (NEW).