Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, announced last week that the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is awarding nearly $950,000 to three Maine institutions to increase consumption of and access to local and regional agricultural products. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, the Sustainability Lab in Yarmouth and the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets in Belfast are fund recipients.

“The local and regional food industry has experienced massive growth in recent years – both in Maine and across our country – and shows no sign of slowing down,” Pingree said in a press release. “As farmers cope with the uncertainty of trade wars, they know they can rely on their local communities to support their business. … With these USDA resources, Mainers will be able to access to locally grown, healthy foods and support their neighborhood farms.”

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute is receiving a total of $612,791 for the implementation project, A Regional Effort to Improve Quality and Market Opportunities for New England Finfish.

“This funding from the USDA will give us the opportunity to implement a suite of region-wide quality handling improvements that will ultimately increase the value of seafood harvested in New England,” said Kyle Foley, sustainable seafood program manager at Gulf of Maine Research Institute, in a press release. “These improvements are critical for our region’s seafood industry to grow and to compete with high quality imported seafood, which is currently the largest barrier to market access for much of the finfish harvested in New England’s waters.”

The Sustainability Lab is receiving a total of $129,335.60 for the planning project Fork Food Lab 2.0.

“This grant is the cornerstone for allowing Fork Food Lab to move to a new location with more space and equipment to better serve our 45 current and future food entrepreneurs,” said Bill Seretta, president, The Sustainability Lab, in a press release. “This will allow members to grow, hire more workers and in turn source more local products and help grow the local food economy.”

The Maine Federation of Farmers Market is receiving $205,892 for the capacity-building project, The Workplace To Market Project.