June 23, 2018
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3 Piscataquis agencies defend their missions

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The UMaine Cooperative Extension service, the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Heart of Maine Resource Conservation and Development agency all play vital roles in Piscataquis County, but there appears to be little duplication among their services, Piscataquis County commissioners were told Tuesday.

The county contributed $33,700 in the current budget year to the operation of the Extension service and $8,500 to the soil and water district. Because of the economy, the commissioners did not fund the annual $2,000 appropriation for the Heart of Maine group.

Since all three provide similar services, some concerns have been expressed over the years about the possibility of a duplication of efforts.

While there are some commonalties among the three, representatives explained Tuesday how each has a different focus and emphasis.

Extension educator Donna Coffin told commissioners that each organization serves different needs but they enhance one another. The Extension’s projects fall under 4-H Youth Development, agriculture, home horticulture and energy education, family and consumer sciences, and community and economic development specifi-cally related to niche opportunities such as micro, home-based businesses.

The Extension service continually assesses the needs in the county and adjusts its workload to respond to those needs, according to Coffin, who is a board member of the two other organizations.

Steve Hobart of the soil and water district said his organization initially was formed to help farmers with conservation, but over the years its outreach in Piscataquis County has expanded to include woodland owners and clean water protection. It also reviews applications filed with the Land Use Regulation Commission that might affect natural resources.

Hobart said the success of the Maine soil and water conservation districts in lobbying on behalf of Maine farmers brought $12 million into the state under the most recent farm bill passed by Congress, when in earlier years it received $4 million. The local district has been recognized nationally for its demonstration forest in Wil-liamsburg Township and for its collaborations with different agencies, he said.

The Heart of Maine group concentrates its energies on economic development for farms and the food system, according to spokeswoman Sue Watson. She told commissioners the organization is working to promote the farm market. The county lost 11 farms from 2002 to 2007, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture’s census, Watson said. The market value of the crops and livestock raised in the county, however, increased 69 percent during that same time period, she noted.

Watson said her organization collaborates with the other two organizations and has found that their cooperation leverages more resources for the county.

A matrix developed by Coffin that outlines the missions, targeted audiences, the use of county funds, and the projects of all three organizations will be provided to each county budget committee member when they meet for the next budget review.



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