President Ferrini-Mundy testifies at 2023 Farm Bill congressional listening session in Freeport

University of Maine President and University of Maine System Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Joan Ferrini-Mundy made remarks at a listening session of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture in Freeport hosted by committee chairman Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) on July 31. The listening session was held to gather input from Mainers on policies, programs and investment to prioritize in the 2023 Farm Bill.

“The reauthorization of the Farm Bill, including increased funding, will position our land grant university for even greater state and national impact, including through UMaine’s Cooperative Extension offices statewide and our Maine Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station research farms, forests, gardens and greenhouses,” Ferrini-Mundy said. “These organizations work with folks across this room today and we couldn’t be more proud than to be representing the importance of agriculture in the state of Maine.”

Ferrini-Mundy highlighted UMaine’s research, outreach and workforce development initiatives to advance farms and food systems, such as the Wyman’s Wild Blueberry Research and Innovation Center; the world-class potato breeding program at Aroostook Farm, which developed the successful gourmet potato variety, the Caribou Russet; and the Wabanaki Youth in Science (WaYS) program, which supports Indigenous student persist in STEM and is funded through the USDA’s New Beginnings for Tribal Students program. 

She noted that past federal funds secured by Sens. Collins and King are being used for the establishment of a PFAS testing lab and technical assistance program for farmers, set to open this year, and called for more federal investment in university agriculture research facilities. Ferrini-Mundy also emphasized that UMaine’s “signature strengths” including climate science, clean energy technology, biobased material development, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine sciences including aquaculture, food systems and more are closely connected to the needs of Maine and the federal programs authorized by the Farm Bill. 

The listening session was moderated by Hannah Carter, dean of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. 

A video recording of the listening session can be found on the House Committee on Agriculture website and on YouTube; Ferrini-Mundy’s testimony begins at 12:08 and ends at 14:47.

In a formal written testimony to the committee, Ferrini-Mundy, who also chairs the Council of Presidents of the Association of Public & Land Grant Universities (APLU) further detailed the importance of investments in land grant education, research and service to the success of Maine and the nation. 

“Perhaps nowhere is the success of agriculture and dependent rural communities more intertwined with the activities and capacity of a land grant university than here in Maine with our flagship university,” she wrote. “Undergirding Maine’s and our nation’s farms and food systems is cutting-edge research and a skilled, highly innovative workforce produced by America’s land grant universities. This country’s ability to maintain our global leadership and economic competitiveness and ensure equitable prosperity for all people; address climate change and cyberthreats, advance rural communities, food safety and security, and energy independence; and solve problems not yet imagined is dependent upon the investments in our institutions you can help make possible in the next Farm Bill.”