Three Maine institutions will get nearly $950,000 in federal aid to help strengthen markets for the state’s agricultural products.

The money was included in last year’s Farm Bill, which established a market and local food promotion program, Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, D-1st District, said Friday.

Pingree said the funding will help farmers and other food producers strengthen their markets at a time of uncertainty due to foreign trade issues.

The largest portion of the money – a grant of nearly $488,000 that requires a $125,000 match – will go to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland to help it implement a program to upgrade the quality of fish caught in New England waters and increase market opportunities.

One part of the program will focus on working with key businesses in the industry to boost sales and another will increase access to ice for fishing vessels in four New England ports. The institute said improving the quality of fish going to market is key for competing with imported seafood being sold in the United States.

Yarmouth’s Sustainability Lab, which runs the Fork Food Lab, will get nearly $100,000 to develop a plan to expand and possibly relocate the organization’s commercial kitchen incubator. The Portland-based food lab gives small food businesses, such as food trucks or startups, access to a commercial kitchen to prepare their products. The grant, which will require a match of about $30,000, will help the Sustainability Lab explore the possibility of moving to a new location, the feasibility of developing new food sectors, purchasing specialized equipment and providing more space for production. The organization said an expansion could support the creation of nearly 250 jobs and provide an economic impact of $1.5 million by 2025.

The third grant of $160,000, with a local match of nearly $46,000, will go to the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets in Belfast to look into incentives and promotions to help spur more consumer use of farmers’ markets.


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