WASHINGTON — Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, today celebrated final passage of the government funding bill for Fiscal Year 2023 which directs the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to dedicate $5 million to assist farmers whose land has been contaminated by PFAS or “forever chemicals”. As Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, Pingree also authored provisions in the spending bill to increase the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to address PFAS mitigation nationwide.
“While Maine has led the nation in testing and responding to PFAS contamination on farmland, there is no question that farmers in other states will be affected. However, without any sort of safety net at USDA to support PFAS-impacted farmers, the people who feed us could lose everything. That’s why the $5 million I championed in this spending bill is a critical step to support our farmers through this crisis,” said Pingree. “This is just the start, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to build on this funding as we approach the next Farm Bill.”
“Maine is committed to supporting our farmers whose lands have been impacted by PFAS contamination,” said Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal. “This funding championed by Congresswoman Pingree will help Maine and other states take even more aggressive action to identify and address PFAS contamination nationwide.”
“Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) is pleased to see that the year-end federal spending bill retains $5 million dollars of needed support for farmers with known PFAS contamination on their land. MFT has been working for months with a broad range of Maine stakeholders to channel urgent funding and resources to impacted farmers. But more support is needed in Maine and across the country,” Shelley Megquier, Policy & Research Director of Maine Farmland Trust said. “Other states are beginning to recognize the reality that Maine already has – that PFAS contamination endangers farm families, the agricultural sector, and our food system. This funding will enable USDA to provide increased support to impacted farmers in states with established thresholds and to accelerate research efforts on PFAS uptake, mitigation, and remediation methods. Getting this support and evidence to impacted farmers will help to ensure that farmers in Maine and across the country continue to thrive.”
Omnibus highlights for Maine:
Federal support for farmers affected by PFAS contamination
- The package includes $5 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for testing soil, water, or agricultural products, and to mitigate the impacts of producers impacted by PFAS contamination. Priority will be given to farmers in states with established PFAS tolerance thresholds in food or agricultural products.
- The Appropriations bill also increases funding for the EPA from $5 million to $8 million to advance research on PFAS impacts in the agriculture sector. Specifically, the funds will support research to better understand PFAS uptake into plants and animals, helping reduce PFAS exposure in our food supply and promoting farm viability.
Addition of York River to the National Park Service’s ‘Wild and Scenic’ List
- The bill includes a provision that adds the York River to the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic River System, bringing more federal funding and technical assistance to the river and providing a local forum for the four watershed communities to collaboratively address long-term river stewardship needs.
- This designation follows a 3-year study—funded by legislation Pingree and Senator Angus King introduced and became law in 2014—conducted by local stakeholders which recommended the designation.
Support for Maine’s lobster fishery
- Championed by Maine’s four-member Congressional Delegation and Governor Janet Mills, the provision is a simple compromise that would protect the livelihoods of the men and women who make their living from one of the best managed and sustainable fisheries in the nation.
- Specifically, the provision in the omnibus:
- Deems the current right whale rules sufficient to ensure the continued operation of the lobster and Jonah crab fisheries for six years (through December 31, 2028).
- Provide that new regulations for the lobster and Jonah crab fisheries would take effect in six years (by December 31, 2028).
- Authorizes a new grant program that could fund innovative gear technologies and the monitoring necessary to support the dynamic management of fisheries. Fishermen and other participants within the maritime industry would be eligible for this funding.
- The bill also provides an increase of $6 million from FY22 for right whale related research, monitoring, enforcement and conservation efforts
$34.5 million for 15 community projects
- $500,000 to Alfond Youth Center in Waterville for targeted support to children and families in need
- $535,000 to Amistad in Portland for supportive recovery housing
- $750,000 to Apex Youth Connection in Biddeford for its youth job readiness center focused on at-risk youth
- $12,326,000 to Bigelow Laboratory in East Boothbay for its new Ocean Sciences Innovation and Education Wing
- $3 million to the Maine Irish Heritage Center in Portland for building restoration
- $1 million to the Central Lincoln County YMCA Child Care Center in Damariscotta in for renovations and expansion
- $3,452,978 to the City of Saco for its water resource resilience project
- $3 million to the Goodall Memorial Library in Sanford for renovations and expansion
- $2,105,000 to the Knox Clinic in Rockland for construction and outfitting of a new facility
- $1 million to Mercy Hospital in Portland for language acquisition and health care workforce training
- $1 million to the Preble Street Food Security Hub in South Portland to support its anti-hunger work
- $2,750,000 to the Governor’s Energy Office for energy efficiency workforce training and support
- $1 million to the Town of Limerick for its water and sewer mains replacement project
- $1,500,000 to Boots2Roots in Portland for its veteran-focused transition to work initiative
- $619,000 to the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center for a new women’s entrepreneurship program
For the first time, the annual spending bill includes $5 billion in mandatory funding for the Cost of War Toxic Exposures Fund established in the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022. Combined with discretionary funding provided for Veterans Medical Care, these resources will help fulfill House Democrats’ commitment to veterans without endangering other key investments in social services such as child care, medical research, housing, education, and other non-defense programs.
The bill also includes $44.9 billion in much-needed emergency security, economic, and humanitarian aid to support the Ukrainian people and $40.6 billion for other purposes including assisting communities across the country recovering from drought, hurricanes, flooding, wildfire, natural disasters, and other emergencies.
Notably, the Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations bill includes the highest level for non-defense funding ever.
The package now heads to President Biden’s desk.
–The Office of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine)