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USDA Rural Development Celebrates Protection of Sebasticook River with Hartland Community and Makes $29.7 Million Landmark Earth Day Announcement

This Earth Day I visited the rural Maine community of Hartland, population 1,782, for its 1st Annual Earth Day Celebration. I was greeted by Hartland’s Interim Town Manager Christopher Littlefield, and the smiling children, residents, town and wastewater officials who welcomed me to their community for a special Earth Day announcement.

I was pleased to join partners including Maine’s Congressional Staff and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to announce significant USDA Rural Development funding in the amount of $29.7 million to fund seven Maine wastewater treatment facilities. Included in the announcement is the Town of Hartland which will receive $1,600,000 through USDA Rural Development for essential upgrades to the wastewater treatment facility.

Vegetable Processing Facility "Northern Girl" Gears up for Fresh Veggies

It may be spring time, but the staff of Northern Girl already has big plans for fall, when their new vegetable processing facility officially opens in Van Buren, Maine. Funded in part through a USDA Rural Development Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG), the new 4,000 square foot facility will allow for the potential for year round processing of locally-grown vegetables.

This project is a really valuable asset - not only does it support a growing Maine business and 12 rural northern Maine farms, but it also puts fresh, locally-grown vegetables, “bounty from the county,” on the shelves for consumers in Maine and other parts of New England to enjoy. It reflects USDA Rural Development’s solid commitment to support local and regional food systems.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan Visits Common Ground Fair in Maine, Meets with Farmers, Growers and Area USDA Officials

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan visited the Common Ground Fair on Sunday as a part of her visit to Maine. While at the fair, the Deputy Secretary met with leaders from USDA agencies as well as numerous Maine farmers and gardeners.

During her keynote address at the fair, Merrigan discussed organic farming as well as the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. Through this initiative, USDA integrates programs and policies that stimulate food- and agriculturally-based community economic development; fosters new opportunities for farmers and ranchers; promotes locally and regionally produced and processed foods; cultivates healthy eating habits and educated, empowered consumers; expands access to affordable fresh and local food; and demonstrates the connection between food, agriculture, community and the environment.

Two Maine Towns Unite to Leverage USDA Support into a Money-Saving Clean Water Project

The far northern Maine towns of St. Agatha and Frenchville recognize the value of partnership. So when the aging St. Agatha wastewater treatment plant began to have issues, the towns began to work on a solution. That solution was a mutually beneficial partnership with Frenchville, located only six miles away.

The towns agreed to combine their wastewater treatment system into a single, state-of-the-art facility located in Frenchville. This decision helped both towns to cut costs, while helping to preserve the Saint John River and Long Lake, which is a valuable Salmon hatchery in the area.

The total project cost was $3.2 million, with USDA Rural Development providing $1.1 million to assist with the conversion of the treatment plant to a pumping facility. Other funding partners include the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

Rural Roundtable: Strengthening Maine’s Economy

It was a unique opportunity for Maine leaders to share their thoughts on the challenges and prospects for Maine’s economy at a Rural Roundtable held earlier this month, at the Rural Development State Office in Bangor. The Roundtable, facilitated by USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Virginia Manuel, brought the participants together with Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager and Maine Congressman Michael Michaud for a candid discussion.

USDA Rural Development Invests in Maine Schools through Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants

USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Virginia Manuel made a major announcement to Region II School of Applied Technology, in Houlton, on Friday. The School received the news that it will benefit from three USDA Rural Development Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants.

The grant funds will provide access for adult learners in rural Maine to improve their employability and obtain marketable technical skills. This project has three wings, with each wing of this network introducing a new configuration of rural end-users and content providers who will add value to the education network:

Organizations Looks to Maine to Learn about Dynamic Renewable Energy Projects

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel and staff recently organized an important visit to Maine for a high-level worldwide organization known as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The group, headquartered in Paris, France, established formal links with USDA Rural Development in Washington, DC over a year ago to review how renewable energy projects are supporting rural economic development in the United States. The six OECD officials on this mission represent the countries of Italy, Germany, Norway, Scotland, and the United States.

USDA Rural Development has invested $16.05 million in renewable energy projects in Maine over the last several years, including funding for the Fox Island Wind turbines on Vinalhaven.

USDA and EPA Highlight Unique Wastewater Treatment Facility

On August 30, 2011 USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel joined Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Curt Spalding and Maine DEP Acting Commissioner Pattie Aho in highlighting one of the most affordable and advanced wastewater facilities in the country. This was an excellent opportunity to highlight the unique project as well as the important partnership between USDA Rural Development and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Greater Limestone Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility is impressive for many reasons. The $21 million total project brought together federal, state and local partners to regionalize two aging rural wastewater treatment facilities in northern Maine (Loring and Limestone) into one state-of-the-art facility.

Maine State Director Joins Administration Senior Official for White House Business Roundtable

On July 18, USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel joined Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office David Kappos for a White House Business Roundtable hosted by local lender Bangor Savings Bank.  Participants in the discussion included 15 leaders from the Bangor region representing a variety of sectors including business, healthcare, medical research, transportation, and energy.

During the Roundtable entitled Winning the Future with American Business, Maine leaders had the opportunity to voice their concerns about economic growth and the challenges they face as business owners/leaders. This Roundtable discussion also provided a chance for the Administration to ensure local business leaders are taking advantage of the resources and programs designed to help them create jobs and compete.

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel is Joined by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in Announcing Earth Day Funds to Help Preserve Maine Clam Flats

At an Earth Day celebration in Thomaston, Maine on April 23, members of the community gathered to hear an announcement that will have a major benefit to the surrounding environment and shellfish industry, helping to preserve 1,200 acres of clam flats in the area.

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel was joined by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree to announce that the Town of Thomaston will receive Federal funds to make numerous improvements to its wastewater infrastructure. The Town will also contribute funds to make the project possible. The announcement brings the total investment Rural Development has provided to the Town of Thomaston to a total of over $9 million.