Adam Nordell visits the family farm in Unity he used to operate with his partner last spring, but after it tested for staggeringly high levels of PFAS, he had to shut it down. Now he is an activist lobbying for improved testing and more research on the health effects of PFAS. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The state began accepting applications for assistance from commercial farmers impacted by forever chemicals on Monday and it has already received an application from a farmer who wants Maine to buy their contaminated farmland.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry isn’t releasing any details about the first application for a share of a $70 million Fund to Address PFAS Contamination. Fund Director Beth Valentine said she was reluctant to name the farm because “this is all very new.”

“We received an application for a land purchase yesterday,” Valentine said Tuesday. “I anticipate applications from three or four farms in the near future for income replacement, infrastructure and administrative cost grants, among other things.”

The fund budget – $60 million in state funds and $10 million in likely federal funds – is split into pieces: about $30 million in grants to get farmers back on their feet, $21.5 million in compensation for contaminated land, $7.3 million for medical needs, and $11.2 million for scientific research.

“DACF worked directly with the agricultural community to identify priorities and design programs to distribute funding effectively,” Commissioner Amanda Beal said. “Maine’s efforts to proactively address PFAS contamination in agriculture demonstrates how important Maine’s farmers are to our state.”

The fund was created by the Legislature in 2022 to help Maine farmers, farmworkers and those who live near them whose lives have been upended by toxic chemicals left behind by a now-defunct state-approved sludge-spreading program that dates to the 1970s.


The PFAS Fund will supplement the agriculture department’s existing PFAS response program, a first-in-the-nation campaign to work directly with farmers whose water or fields test positive for PFAS contamination. In most instances, contaminated farms can find a way to remain viable.

“Knowing the challenge of starting a farm business in this day and age, we want to keep farmers farming whenever possible,” said Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough. “The work has yielded a safety net for farmers who find themselves in an unfortunate position at no fault of their own.”

To date, Maine has identified 59 PFAS-contaminated farms, according to DACF spokesman Jim Britt. Of those, only four have closed. The rest have been able to remain in operation by changing their feed source, installing water filtration systems or switching to a crop that is not susceptible to PFAS uptake.

But that’s not possible for everyone. The PFAS Fund can purchase PFAS-tainted real estate at fair market pre-contamination value, as established by a team of third-party appraisers. Once purchased, Maine will manage the lands with a long-term goal of one day returning them to agricultural production.

Farmland in Maine is valued at about $2,860 an acre, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That value will vary depending on where that acre is located, with values in the south and along the coasts much higher than in other areas. The national average is $5,050 an acre.



By the end of 2024, the PFAS Fund is scheduled to launch additional programs, including a competitive research grant program, a program to cover PFAS blood serum testing costs not covered by insurance and a program to provide access to mental health services for eligible individuals.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are called forever chemicals because they can linger in the environment for decades. Even trace amounts have been linked to compromised immune systems, low birth weights and several types of cancer.

Maine is on the frontlines of PFAS legislation. Last year, after a string of farms connected to the state’s decades-old sludge spreading program shut down because of PFAS contamination, Maine became the first state to ban sludge recycling and approve a 2030 ban on PFAS in nonessential products.

Under Maine law, forever chemicals must be stripped from all products sold here after 2030 unless the use is deemed unavoidable. But lawmakers are now considering bills that would exempt a range of high-value manufacturing industries and even pesticides from that ban.

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