March 12, 2010

Maine's farmers need help to preserve their way of lifeSATURDAY OPINION

— Hats off to the Portland Press Herald for recent articles highlighting the growth and great promise of farming in Maine, helping to bust the myth that farming here is dying.

click image to enlarge

Staff Photo by Herb Swanson, Saturday, October 29, 2005: A pastoral scene is reflected in a flooded pasture at Long Plain Dairy Farm on Route 22 in Buxton, Maine on Saturday.

But I don't want readers to think that every farm sector is doing well, or that Maine agriculture will realize its full promise on its own.

One example: Maine's dairy sector is currently in crisis, the result of record low farmer prices (as set by the federal government). Maine is fortunate in having a unique way of countering low federal prices, but the price is now so low that Maine's current program is not up to the task.

Unless the Legislature revamps this program soon, hundreds of dairy farms could be lost.

Another challenge for Maine agriculture, generally, is the high cost of farmland, which often prevents would-be farmers from getting started or existing farmers from expanding.

The solution here is to preserve farmland through an agricultural easement, which ensures that the land can be bought at its value as farmland, not house lots.

With upwards of 400,000 acres of Maine farmland expected to be in transition in the next 10 years (as aging landowners sell or die), Maine must move fast to expand its ability to preserve farmland, or risk losing much of this irreplaceable resource.

Yes, the future of farming in Maine is bright, but only if we are smart and do the right things.

John Piotti

Executive Director

Maine Farmland Trust

Unity

Falmouth's neighbors know why town refused to merge

I'm writing in response to Paul Bochorik's letter to the editor titled ''Don't risk Falmouth school quality'' on Feb. 5.

Let's be honest. The primary concern and apprehension for school consolidation in Falmouth was money. Under the proposed state consolidation plan as originally presented, Falmouth stood to pay a lot more money than it currently does for essentially the same system.

It is why a committee of hard-working citizens from Falmouth, Cumberland and North Yarmouth spent months and countless hours in earnest trying to come up with a plan that made financial sense to each community. And yes, it seemed unfair to many in the surrounding communities that Falmouth was ''let off the hook'' for the penalty.

It confirmed suspicions that the consolidation effort was mostly for show, with no real goals or consequences. I am sure some on the committee feel their time was wasted.

My last point is this: Many of us in Cumberland and North Yarmouth moved into these communities in some part based on the reputation of MSAD 51. I don't think that reputation has been tarnished in the least, no matter what the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., think.

Michael Perfetti

Cumberland

Portland still needs man like Jeff Monroe to guide growth

Regarding ''Uncertain times on the Portland waterfront,'' by staff writer John Richardson, on Jan. 25: Where is Jeff Monroe when you need him?

I am referring to the ''down-sized'' former director of transportation for Portland -- a Maine Maritime Academy grad, an experienced ship's officer and someone who demonstrated consistently his support and enthusiasm regarding the multifaceted benefits of Portland as a major East Coast port.

Before he was ''down-sized,'' the former director of transportation for Portland coordinated numerous activities regarding not only the port itself, but also the airport and other transportation services in and around the city.

He worked with businesses that benefited from tourist and cruise ship visits, and things seemed to work well. With many businesses suffering, we should be doing whatever we can to encourage and promote interest and activity in the Port of Portland.

I am concerned that in these economically strained times, without Capt. Monroe's leadership we may be neglecting an important asset to the city and the state as well.

Don Fiske

Cape Porpoise

Don McLean's musical fame derivative, not original

I take issue with the ungracious and self-serving remark on singer Don McLean's Web site that Buddy Holly would be forgotten were it not for McLean's song, ''American Pie.'' ('' 'Do you recall what was revealed' the day Buddy Holly died?'' Feb. 3).

To quote McLean's Web site: ''Though Buddy Holly is a superstar today, his fame had vanished by the end of the 1960s. That all changed in 1971 with the release of 'American Pie,' and it has been said that if it wasn't for Don McLean, then nobody would have heard of Buddy Holly today.''

''American Pie'' is an iconic song that pays tribute to early rock 'n' roll. McLean was obviously inspired by Holly's untimely death. Would there have been such a hit without that sad event?

As my husband said when I read him the quote, ''McLean has it backwards. Without Buddy Holly, no one would have heard of Don McLean today.''

Barbara Doughty

Portland

What is it with Democrats who don't pay their taxes?

So now we have three leading Democratic politicians who have failed to pay their taxes.

Not a few dollars of taxes, but more money in taxes then a lot of America workers make in one year.

Rep. Charlie Rangel, who leads the congressional committee in charge of tax policy, failed to pay taxes on rental income because as he says he did not even know he made this money.

Timothy Geithner, our new treasury secretary and leader of the IRS, decided to write off illegimate expenses and not pay taxes on income, even though he signed a form saying he would. His excuse was an error using the software, ''Turbo Tax.''

The latest title of tax scofflaw goes to the former Sen. Tom Daschle, who withdrew as nominee for secretary of health and human services.

This time we have a case of unreported income, questionable charitable donations and free limo service that was never counted as income.

Of course all three of these men paid the taxes after it was discovered in the press or right before their confirmation hearings, but that is not enough.

We are now getting an insight into why these Democratic politicians want to raise taxes on the rich, because they have found a way around paying their fair share of taxes.

There is no need to raise taxes; let's make sure people pay their fair share, and that is a message that needs to start at the top.

Bill Wardwell

Windham

Pope's choice of bishop raises suitability issues

I read your story about Pope Benedict XVI appointing Rev. Gerhard Wagner as a bishop in Austria, in spite of his error about God's motivation in sending Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans.

Wagner said it was because of the toleration of sins such as homosexuality in New Orleans.

But, everyone of sound judgment knows that God sent that particular hurricane because of the epidemic of employers in New Orleans failing to pay workers the minimum wage and overtime pay, the kind of sin condemned by many prophets in the Hebrew Bible.

I don't think we Catholics should support that appointment if Rev. Wagner can't read God's mind a little better than that.

Donald F. Fontaine

Portland

Israelis want peace, so why not let them have it?

In a letter to the editor on Jan. 31, ''Palestinians deserve apology, U.N. and Israeli rebuilding aid,'' Morgana Warner-Evans states, ''I wonder if those who write in support of lsrael's attack on Gaza know how or why the state was created.''

This statement presumes that if one supports Israel, they are biased, ignorant of the facts and uncaring about the innocent Palestinians killed in the crossfire. I know for a fact that most Israeli supporters with whom I have spoken do indeed know how Israel was created. They are far from biased, because most, including me, want a Palestinian homeland, are disturbed by the killing of innocent people on both sides and tend to cringe at the economic blockades.

However, we supporters would like Israel to be left alone and live in peace as Jews have desired for thousands of years. Unfortunately for Israel and the innocent Palestinians, there are militant groups like Hamas who want to wipe Israel and all Jews off the face of the Earth.

As long as there are people around the world who say Israel deserves that fate, Hamas and their like will be emboldened to do whatever they wish.

It's time for those non-supporters of lsrael to be objective and see both sides. Until this happens, there will never be peace.

Michael D. Clenott

Portland

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