Maine Farmland Trust and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association are launching a new PFAS Emergency Relief Fund to support farmers impacted by potential PFAS contamination.

“This fund will help make sure that farmers that are facing extreme uncertainty about their futures get interim relief until they get the support they need from the state,” Maine Farmland Trust President and CEO Amy Fisher said in a press release Feb. 24. “Farms that are proactively testing their water, soil and products for PFAS are in a really difficult financial position, as many farms with high test results decide to pause their sales and operations until they have the information to make decisions and move forward.”

The fund is designed to help pay for initial PFAS testing on farms that choose to do their own testing, and to provide short-term income replacement for farms that the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has identified as having high test results. The fund will serve as a safety net, providing interim support from initial PFAS testing until they can access DACF’s longer-term support programs.

Any Maine farmer dealing with PFAS contamination is eligible to enroll, regardless of whether a farm has worked directly with either of the organizations.

“Farmers are now facing a threat that they never imagined when they got into farming. Their farms are contaminated with PFAS from the land applications of sewage and industrial sludge,” MOFGA Executive Director Sarah Alexander said in the release. “PFAS contamination is a threat to the health of the people on these farms, this is a threat to the businesses they have built and it’s a threat to our food safety. That’s why we’re partnering to offer this funding to support our farms during a very difficult time.”

The organizations together have raised $255,000 from several regional foundations as seed money for the fund.

Income Replacement Grants are now available to eligible farms, including Indigenous growers. PFAS contamination has impacted Indigenous communities throughout Wabanaki territory, specifically through the known contamination of the Penobscot River, a cultural lifeline and foodway for the Penobscot people, by PFAS-laden landfill leachate. To recognize the long history and current practices of colonization through the contamination of natural resources, Indigenous growers will be prioritized in the PFAS testing support program.

Testing Grants will be open for enrollment on March 1. Grants to help cover the cost of mental health services will be available soon. Farmers can learn more about the PFAS Emergency Relief Fund and enrollment in the grant programs by visiting mainefarmlandtrust.org/pfas-emergency-relief-fund.

About MFT

Maine Farmland Trust is a member-powered organization that protects farmland, supports farmers, and advances the future of farming in Maine. Since its founding in 1999, MFT has helped to keep over 60,000 acres of Maine’s farmland in farming and has supported over 1,000 farmers with the critical services they need to get on the land and grow thriving businesses. More at mainefarmlandtrust.org

About MOFGA

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) is a broad-based community that educates about and advocates for organic agriculture, illuminating its interdependence with a healthy environment, local food production, and thriving communities. Through education, training and advocacy MOFGA is creating a food system that is healthy and fair for all. More at mofga.org.