Maine has an abundance of water resources, yet in many cases, the quantity and timing of available water may not be sufficient. Over the past several years, drought conditions have presented problems in our state. Maine has also been subject to increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, with three of our four most recent droughts taking place in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Henry Ingwersen Courtesy photo

In 2020, some agricultural crops were severely affected by drought, with the extreme lack of rain in the northern part of the state leading to some record-low stream flows. Farmers in this region attempted to save their crops by overexerting water withdrawals from streams and rivers, resulting in numerous citizen complaints to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The problems included fish die-offs, low stream flows, destruction of beaver dams, filling of wetlands and other issues. By March 2021, river flows were already below the normal level, and parts of the state received inadequate rainfall until July.

Drastic shifts in temperature and precipitation, caused by climate change, have been well-documented and are predicted to become even more intense in the coming decades. This is reflected in the University of Maine’s 2020 Maine Drought and Agriculture Report, making Maine farmers uneasy about the future of their crop yields and access to adequate water.

Fortunately, in 2022, the Maine Legislature passed a new law from Senate President Troy Jackson to help farmers respond to drought conditions. The bill, LD 1998, “An Act to Establish a Fund for Farmers Adversely Affected by Drought Conditions,” had two aims: to create a drought relief grant program, which the Mills administration proposed to fund with $2 million in the upcoming biennial budget and $300,000 per year afterward; and to produce a report on streamlining the permitting process for new sources of water for irrigation in Maine.

The report, titled Findings and Recommendations for Streamlining Permitting New Sources of Water for Irrigation in Maine, was submitted to the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee in January 2023.

I took these findings seriously and I recognize that time is of the essence. We cannot wait until drought conditions get worse to take action — the time to act is now. Therefore, to proactively look after Maine farmers, I proudly introduced a bill to put the recommendations of the report into effect. The bill, LD 315, is titled “An Act To Provide Funding for Drought Relief and Other Programs Benefitting Maine Farmers.”


In short, my bill allocates ongoing funding to create three full-time, permanent positions that are imperative to the success of the drought relief program started by Senate President Jackson. No matter the weather, Maine farmers have always been able to adjust to changes in growing conditions. Yet, as droughts become more frequent and extreme, this program will provide the necessary resources to help them prepare.

My colleagues and I have received much enthusiasm from farmers who are interested in using this program to improve their irrigation systems. I am proud to be part of this endeavor and am excited to see it come to fruition. Maine farmers certainly deserve this opportunity.

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Senator Henry Ingwersen represents Senate District 32 which is made up of Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Hollis and Lyman. He can be reached at or 207-287-1515.

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