For Immediate Release: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Contact: Adrienne Bennett (207) 287-2531
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul LePage today signed the supplemental budget bill that creates the new Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
Based on LD 1830, which was included in total in the supplemental budget, the new department brings together the Maine Department of Conservation and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources. The new department will assume and oversee the duties and responsibilities of both former departments.
Through the establishment of ACF the State of Maine will have a focused approach to the management, development and promotion of land-based activities throughout the state. The new department also is expected to make more efficient use of scarce resources, reduce duplication and compete competitively for funding.
“Farmers and forest owners who assure the productive use of their land are the true stewards of our Maine woods, fields and natural areas,” Governor LePage said.
“I expect this new department will accomplish great things and ensure that Maine’s natural resources, which are such an important part of our economy and our heritage, will continue to play a leadership role in our future prosperity,” the Governor said.
The organization of the new department creates one ACF Commissioner and two deputy-commissioner positions, while eliminating one commissioner’s position, with a subsequent savings in excess of about $100,000. No other positions are changed.
“Our land-based resources have a great deal in common,” Agriculture Commissioner Walt Whitcomb said. “Folding together the state agencies who work side by side with farmers, foresters, park managers and the many others who derive their livelihood from the land is a move to more efficient delivery of state services.
“Passage of this significant legislation will start the process of serious discussions with all interested parties in preparing the more detailed plans to be submitted to the next Legislature,” the Commissioner said.
“Each Mainer is a farmer, forester and conservationist at heart,” Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley said. “This new department recognizes the different perspectives, yet at its most elemental level, it focuses on the common ground.
“This merger brings applied natural science, land-based human activity and land-use planning under one roof,” he continued. “From farming to outdoor recreation, from forestry to conservation, our new department is meant to enable landowner and public decision-makers alike to make more informed strategic decisions about Maine’s future and to move toward our full potential in a 21st-century agrarian economy.”
The new department will have 732 full-time and seasonal employees and have a budget of $96.5 million. It will be organized into seven divisions:
• Division of Agricultural Resource Development;
• Division of Forestry;
• Division of Parks and Public Lands;
• Division of Quality Assurance and Regulation;
• Division of Animal and Plant Health;
• Division of Geology and Natural Areas;
• And the Division of Land Use Planning, Permitting and Compliance.
All professional and technical boards and organizations associated with both departments will continue to work in conjunction with the new department.
Under the signed legislation, a formal budget for the new department will be proposed, as well as proposed legislation to submit to the 126th Legislature to consolidate existing law into a new Title of the Maine Revised Statutes (Title 7-A) and undertake appropriate reorganization of the ACF department.
The Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, has authority to meet up to six times during the legislative interim to discuss planning, program operations and implementation issues related to the establishment of the new department.
In the near term, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Conservation will schedule public input sessions throughout the state to identify ideas and issues to be addressed by a departmental reorganization and upcoming budget. Further information will be provided on a department website in coming weeks.
Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.