OF AGRICULTURE, CONSERVATION AND FORESTRY
OF MARKET AND PRODUCTION DEVELOPMENT
36: RULES GOVERNING THE MAINE FARMS FOR THE FUTURE PROGRAM
1. DEFINITIONS 2
OF AN ADMINISTRATING ORGANIZATION 4
REQUIREMENTS OF THE ORGANIZATION
TO ADMINISTER THE PROGRAM 4
ADMINISTRATION DUTIES 4
OF REVIEW PANEL 5
2. RESPONSIBILITIES 5
OF SERVICE PROVIDERS 5
OF SERVICE PROVIDERS 6
OF FARMS FOR PARTICIPATION IN FARMS FOR THE FUTURE BUSINESS PLAN
DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM 6
FOR SELECTION 6
AND NOTIFICATION OF AWARD 7
AND LIMITATIONS OF FUNDING 8
OF FARMS FOR PARTICIPATION IN THE FARMS
THE FUTURE INVESTMENT SUPPORT PROGRAM TO IMPLEMENT
BUSINESS PLAN 8
FOR SELECTION 8
AND LIMITATIONS OF FUNDING 9
PROTECTION AGREEMENT 10
OF AGREEMENT 10
119th Legislature authorized the initiation of the Maine Farms for
the Future Program (7 M.R.S.A., Chapter 10-B). The Legislature
identified the need for providing farms with assistance in developing
business plans to help those farms change farm operations to make
them more viable and profitable. These rules establish the procedures
for administering the program, including: application procedures,
criteria for granting awards within the guidelines specified in the
legislation, an outline of the responsibilities of the applicants,
the role of the committees overseeing program management, and other
administrative procedures not specified in the legislation.
- means fresh, or to be processed, food, fiber, or horticultural
products grown on the farm, with the intent that the product be sold
or otherwise disposed of to generate income. Agricultural products
produced on the farm may include the growing and harvesting of some
specialty forest products, such as firewood processing, but may not
include the products of a business engaged primarily in the growing,
harvesting or processing of trees for the purpose of producing pulp
or other materials used in paper manufacturing or wood manufacturing.
An agricultural product may also include aquacultural products, so
long as they are raised on the farm.
- means a document that identifies changes in farm management
practices and investments in equipment and property that would
increase the profitability and net worth of the farm (vitality). A
typical plan identifies ways to increase on-farm income through such
methods as improved management practices, direct marketing, and
value-added initiatives; and describes current operations and future
plans for the business, including but not limited to sections on
mission/vision, legal organization, management team, product
descriptions, market research, market promotion, customer profiles,
financial statements, financial analysis of planned changes in the
business and long-term goals for the business.
- means the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and
- means the potential of the farm operations to be curtailed or the
Farm Business to be put out of business due to increasing development
of non-compatible land uses near the farm. This includes, but is not
limited to residential and industrial development, nuisance
complaints, and loss of agricultural infrastructure in the vicinity
of the farm or food business. These, and other non-compatible land
uses, can create environmental, social, political, or operational
constraints on the farm operation and result in, negative financial
impacts to the Farm Business.
– means that the agricultural products grown or produced on the
farm are being sold commercially and the farm has documentation of
gross and net farm income, expenses, net worth and farm debt.
– means a written agreement between a farm selected to receive an
investment support cash grant and the Maine Department of
Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, wherein the farm agrees to
keep an area of farmland of no less than 5 acres in active
agricultural use and to protect that land from non-agricultural
development for a period of seven (7) years.
- means the ability of the business to pay back its debt through the
present or future cash flow of the business.
in Agricultural Use
- means land that is currently being used to grow agricultural,
horticultural and silvicultural products.
– means the total assets
of the farm enterprise minus total liabilities
of the farm enterprise.
sources of funds
- means any source of funds other than moneys provided directly or
indirectly by the State of Maine government. A state source does not
include commodity group dedicated revenues generated by commodity
check-off programs, even if collected by the Department of Revenue
- means the Suitable Organization contracted by the Department to
administer the Maine Farms for the Future Program (the "Program").
– means a group of individuals, appointed by the Commissioner of
Agriculture, who shall evaluate and approve applications for
participation in the business planning and investment support
programs, as well as to do periodic reviews of program criteria.
- means a number of specific tasks to be accomplished by a team of
Service Providers and the owner or operator of the selected farm to
develop a Business Plan. Services may include, but are not limited
to, analyzing markets, developing financial data, creating production
or processing efficiencies and registration for instruction or
classroom training in economics and business planning for the owner
or operator of the farm. All tasks must result in planning potential
changes of the farm’s production, management or marketing practices
and investments in equipment and/or property that would increase the
future profitability and net worth (vitality) of the farm.
- means the following entities: including but not limited to,
individuals, private organizations, public organizations and agencies
of the State, marketing consultants, accounting firms, business
support organizations, farm support organizations and other
organizations that the Department determines may provide valuable
services such as, but not limited to, analyzing markets or developing
financial data and instruction or classroom training in economics and
business planning for the owner or operator of a farm.
- means an organization capable of performing all the duties outlined
in 7 M.R.S.A. Chapter 10-B Section 320(1) (A) through (E) and (G).
The organization contracted by the Department to administer the
program becomes the "Program Administrator".
– means an increase in the long-term, maintainable, farm
profitability and net worth.
2. PROGRAM FUNDING
Maine Farms for the Future Program is funded by appropriations from
State general funds as provided by Maine Public Laws, 1999, Chapter
763, and any subsequent appropriations, and, whenever possible, any
additional funding that may be available through an organization
selected to administer the program.
least 40% of the total annual state funding for this Program must be
reserved to be used for grants awarded under Chapter 10-B Section 319
(1) through (5) for investment support.
appropriated to the Program may not lapse but must be carried
of an Administrating Organization
Department may contract the administration of this Program to a
Suitable Organization selected through a competitive process
determined by the Department.
Requirements of the Organization Contracted to Administer the Program
organization is eligible to apply for contractor status to administer
organization must be able to perform all the duties outlined in
Section 3.3 below.
shall be the responsibility of the Program Administrator to:
the program to farms in the State and solicit applications as
specified in Section 6.3.
and oversee the Review Panel.
with the Department to periodically review the criteria developed for
the selection of applicants for participation in the business plan
development and investment support programs, and make recommendations
to the Department for changes as appropriate.
a list of Service Providers.
and monitor a Services Package to assist selected farm applicants
with developing a Business Plan and work with the Department to
administer the disbursement of business planning grants to farm
with the Department to verify selected applicants’ required
matching funds, finalize Farmland Protection Agreements, and
administer the disbursement of the investment support grants to farm
quarterly progress reports to the Department.
Survey, evaluate and report annually to the Department by December
30th of each year on the impact and effectiveness of the program.
4. REVIEW PANEL
of Review Panel
Review Panel will be appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture on
staggered terms of three years, and will be comprised of 5 members,
each with knowledge of Maine agriculture and its needs, and each with
expertise to contribute, such as agricultural financing, management,
production, marketing, or policy.
role of the Review Panel is to evaluate and approve applications for
selected farms to participate in the business plan development and
investment support programs utilizing criteria developed by rule, by
the Department. The Panel may work with the Commissioner and the
Program Administrator to periodically review program criteria.
5. SERVICE PROVIDERS
of Service Providers
Program Administrator shall develop, maintain and periodically update
a list of Service Providers by widely circulating an application to
qualifying entities and providing the list to the Department. The
application must request information including qualifications of the
entity in any professional, technical or subject area that may be of
use in developing a farm Business Plan.
selected farm grantee may work with any Service Provider on the list.
If an individual who is not on the list is desired, the individual
must apply to be approved as a Service Provider by the Department or
the Program Administrator.
of Service Providers
Service Provider, if a part of the Services Package for a farm
business plan development grant, shall assist the selected farm
grantee with developing a Business Plan as defined above.
6. SOLICITATION OF FARMS FOR PARTICIPATION IN THE MAINE FARMS FOR THE
FUTURE BUSINESS PLAN DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
applicant must own and operate a Farm Business that has been
producing agricultural products commercially in the State of Maine
for at least two (2) years at the time of application. The applicant
must own their farmland or be a partner or shareholder in a legal
entity that owns the farmland. If having recently purchased the
farmland, the applicant must have at least two year’s experience
operating a Farm Business elsewhere in Maine. The applicant must
submit an application to the Department, in accordance with State
rules for Requests for Proposals (M.R.S.A. §1825 (C) Administrative
Rules 19, 554, Chapter 110,120) to be eligible for participation in
to the Program must demonstrate the following and shall be scored
The management capacity of the applicant based upon the number of
years farming and other related experience and training; the
applicant’s decision making authority over the land and resources;
and the applicant’s statements of purpose and readiness to apply to
the Program. 20 points
of the Ideas for Change:
The ability of the applicant to identify and propose ideas that will
make fundamental changes on the farm that will improve viability,
profitability, and capacity to pay back debt through the present or
future cash flow of the business, while also attempting to make
farming the primary source of the applicant’s income. 25 points
Financial Health and Ability to Transform:
The ability of the applicant to describe the current financial
condition of the Farm Business, including the current debt load
relative to earnings, the assets and liabilities, and whether the
debt load and access to new assets can be managed with the proposed
ideas for change. 25 points
The suitability and productivity of the farmland for its intended
agricultural use, the physical condition of buildings and equipment,
and other assets needed to maintain and increase productivity of the
Farm Business. 20 points
The degree of development pressure on the farm operation, the
percentage of the operated farmland that is owned by the applicant,
and the potential environmental and community economic development
benefits derived from the proposed change. 10 points
Commissioner may periodically review these selection criteria with
the Review Panel and the Program Administrator to consider changes in
policy when it is deemed necessary or appropriate.
and Notification of Award
Department may solicit proposals at any time, but shall solicit
proposals at least once per year. The Program Administrator will
develop application forms, which must be filled out by the applicant
and submitted to the Department by the due date indicated in the
Department’s publicly noticed Request for Proposals.
Review Panel shall evaluate applications within five weeks following
deadlines for submission of applications. All applicants shall be
notified in writing within one week following the Review Panel's
Department will review and address all written appeals made by
applicants who are not selected for the business plan development
program. The unsuccessful applicant must submit a written letter of
appeal to the Department within 30 days of the date of receipt of the
Review Panel’s written notice.
interested in applying to the program must submit, on a form approved
by the Department, a completed application. The application will
require the submission of the following information:
full description of the current agricultural activities carried out
on the land including the type and quantity of crops, number of
livestock, and/or acreage leased or used by others for agricultural
purposes, description of other farm equipment and building resources.
statement by the applicant explaining their purpose for applying to
the Program and describing how the Program could benefit the economic
and environmental viability of the farm.
statement of the present financial situation of the farm including
the gross and net farm income and expenses, copies of Schedule F for
the two (2) most recent tax years, if available, and a statement
identifying net worth and farm debt.
on the management capability of the farm owner(s) including their
education and experience.
statement as to the degree to which the farm is supporting the
statement by the applicant explaining the short and long term plans
for keeping the property in agricultural use.
for the Department or Program Administrator to conduct a field
inspection of the land, buildings, and equipment to be covered by the
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources and
Conservation Service’s soil map or an aerial map of the farm
showing its soil types and their classification by the USDA NRCS as
Statewide Important or
Locally Significant Farmland,
if readily available from the local Soil and Water Conservation
District or USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Office.
and Limitations of Funding
funds provided by the Department pursuant to business plan
development shall not exceed $10,000. The Commissioner can lower this
threshold as needed to increase the number of farms assisted by the
business plan development program.
7. SOLICITATION OF FARMS FOR PARTICIPATION IN THE MAINE FARMS FOR THE
FUTURE INVESTMENT SUPPORT PROGRAM TO IMPLEMENT A BUSINESS PLAN
farm that has completed a Business Plan as defined above is eligible
to apply for investment support funding to implement the Business
applicant may apply to be considered for either or both of two types
of investment support grants. They may apply to receive the
Department’s recommendation to apply for a reduced-interest (2%)
loan from the Agricultural Marketing Loan Fund under Title 7. Chapter
101, Subchapter 1-D, and/or
they may apply for an investment support cash grant in exchange for a
Farmland Protection Agreement. If
an applicant has previously permanently protected the farm with a
conservation easement, then he or she is not eligible to apply for
the investment support cash grant, but may apply to be recommended to
apply for a reduced-interest (2%) loan.
applicant requesting an investment support cash grant in exchange for
a Farmland Protection Agreement must own at least 5 acres of land in
agricultural use at the time of application.
be selected for the investment support program, an applicant must
participate in a competitive application review process by submitting
an application form and a written Business Plan to the Department.
The application and Business Plan must demonstrate the following:
satisfies the definition in Section 1 and requirements in Section 6
above. 5 points.
The Business Plan provides evidence of applicant’s knowledge,
experience and management capacity to successfully plan and
implement the proposed changes to the Farm Business. 20 points.
The proposed changes to the Farm Business will improve the cash flow
thereby improving the management of debt load needed to pay any new
debt associated with the proposed change(s) to the Farm Business. 10
Vitality and Development of New Capital:
The Business Plan demonstrates, through better strategies,
marketing, production efficiencies and upgrading of facilities and
equipment, an increase in profitability and overall net worth that
will improve the overall sustainability of the Farm Business. 30
or Asset Base:
The Business Plan demonstrates that the farm operations will improve
the productivity of the land (soil quality, fertility, water holding
capacity), and the physical condition of the buildings and
equipment, and sufficiently maintain any newly acquired assets to
increase the overall sustainability of the Farm Business. 20 points.
Business Plan identifies how the current or proposed farm operations
will accomplish broader conservation objectives such as protecting
water quality, improving wildlife habitat, or maintaining open space
and local scenic and cultural amenities as long as such practices
enhance or maintain the profitability of the farm. 5 points
The percentage of the farmland owned by the applicant that is to be
protected under the Farmland Protection Agreement. 5 points
degree to which the change in the business is new and different to
the business. 5 points
and Limitations of Funding
Department may provide investment support by granting a selected
applicant a portion of the funds needed to implement the Business
Plan. The cash grant is for an amount not to exceed the lesser of
$25,000 or 25% of the total investments identified by the Business
Plan. Prior to the disbursement of cash grant funds the Department
may require the grantee to provide documented evidence of a
proportionate amount of match equaling 75% of the total investments
identified by the Business Plan. The match must be directly related
to the implementation of the Business Plan and must have a real
market value. Match may include, but is not limited to, in-kind
labor and farm resources such as timber, sand, gravel or other
natural resource materials used to implement the Business Plan;
personal cash resources; loans, including a reduced-interest (2%)
loan from the Agricultural Marketing Loan Fund; other grants; and
other resources relevant to the Business Plan.
Department may provide a selected applicant with a recommendation to
apply for a reduced-interest (2%) loan from the Agricultural
Marketing Loan Fund established under Title10, Section 1023-J and
administered under 7 M.R.S.A. Section 43. If
the total cost to implement the Business Plan is less than $100,000
reduced-interest loan may be up to 90%
of that cost. If the total cost to implement the Business Plan is
more than $100,000 then the reduced-interest loan may be up to 75%
of that cost. In either case, the total amount of the
reduced-interest loan may not exceed $250,000. The reduced-
interest loan may be used as match for the cash grant described
Review Panel will recommend to the Department those applicants that
it has selected for investment support through a cash grant and/or a
recommendation to apply for a reduced-interest loan under Title 7.
Section 435, Subsection 3-A.
funds provided by the Department pursuant to investment support to
implement a Business Plan must be used to implement the Business
Plan in its original form or in a subsequent amended version that
has been approved by the Program Administrator and the Department
prior to disbursement of funds.
practicable, the Review Panel, will award grants to applicants that
represent a diversity of agricultural enterprise types and broad
geographic distribution across the State.
there is sufficient capital generated by the Farm Business or the
applicant’s off-farm enterprises, services or employment to fund
the implementation of the Business Plan, then the Review Panel may
designate that particular Farm Business as a lower priority for
investment support grant funds.
Department may solicit proposals at any time during the fiscal year,
but shall solicit proposals at least once per year.
Review Panel shall evaluate applications within five weeks after the
deadline for applications has passed.
Review Panel shall send a written notification of a grant to a
selected farm within one (1) week of its decision. Such notice shall
include a draft of the Farmland Protection Agreement which must be
finalized and signed by the selected farm before any grant funds are
disbursed by the Department.
The Review Panel shall send a written notification of its
recommendation for a reduced-interest (2%) loan to the Department and
the selected farm.
If an applicant is not selected by the Review Panel, the Review
Panel shall send the applicant and the Department a written notice of
its decision. Such notice shall include documentation of the Review
Panel’s final score for the applicant and a written statement of
the Panel’s decision. Upon receipt of such notice, an unsuccessful
applicant may appeal to the Department in writing within 30 days of
receipt of the Review Panel’s notice. The Department will address
all letters of appeal within 30 days of receipt.
farm selected to receive a cash grant for investment support must
enter into a 7-year Farmland Protection Agreement as defined in
farm may terminate its Farmland Protection Agreement at any time,
provided that it reimburses the Department for any investment support
funds disbursed to the farm by the Department.