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November 10, 2021

Senators Collins, King Announce More Than $500,000 for Potato Research Program at the University of Maine

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King announced that the University of Maine (UMaine) has received a total of $510,104 to conduct research on potato breeding in Maine.  This funding was awarded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

“Maine’s potato industry is an integral part of our state’s heritage and plays a major role in our state’s economy,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement.  “Although the crop was hit hard last year by the pandemic and drought, Maine’s potato farmers have proven their resiliency time and time again.  By investing in UMaine research to improve the potato’s resistance to extreme weather and other stressors, this funding will support Maine farmers’ efforts to protect their crops and ensure that this industry remains strong for generations to come.”                  

The federal funding will support research at UMaine to develop new potato varieties with improved heat tolerance and increased resistance to pests and disease, as well as improve information-sharing and collaboration with stakeholders.  Last year a drought combined with COVID-related drops in the potato markets resulted in the 2020 crop being down 20 percent from the previous year.  By contrast, 2021 is shaping up to be a banner year for the Maine potato industry due in large part to the success of the Caribou Russet, a potato variety that was developed by UMaine through previous funding from this program.

Senators Collins and King have long been vocal advocates for the Maine potato industry. The Administration’s budget request had proposed to eliminate direct funding for potato research earlier this year. At an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in June, Senator Collins told the Secretary of Agriculture that this proposed cut would harm the potato industry.  As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins secured $2.75 million for potato research grants and $20 million for the Integrated Pest Management Program in the Agriculture funding bill that passed the Committee in August.  Senator King introduced the AG Research Act in August to address the multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog and modernization needs at various agricultural research facilities, including the University of Maine’s potato research program. 

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