July 16, 2019

Agricultural Council of Maine (AGCOM)

by Barbi Ives, Sacopee Valley Beekeepers’ Club president


For over a year, I have been representing the MSBA at AGCOM meetings. AGCOM meets on the last Tuesday of every month of the year except December. The MSBA is one of 19 regular, 13 associate, and 8 ex-officio members of this council. Members include commodity group representatives; investment organizations; universities and colleges; federal and state departments like the USDA and the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry; and many business, non-profit and government stakeholders in Maine’s agricultural system. You can find the whole list on their website at maineagcom.org.

On the website it says, “AGCOM, as it is known in Maine, was established on July 11, 1990 to support Maine agriculture in two key ways:

– to provide a forum for communication among agricultural groups,

– to provide leadership and advocacy on agricultural issues that affect all sectors of Maine agriculture.”

I offered to be the MSBA’s representative for both personal and professional reasons. When I first started going to the meetings, they were very excited to have a beekeeper since the MSBA hadn’t had anyone able to attend in a long time.

MSBA booth at Maine’s 2014 Agricultural Trade Show. Nick Kelley (Western Maine Beekeepers Association) shows  a sampling of Maine honey.

MSBA booth at Maine’s
2014 Agricultural Trade Show. Nick Kelley (Western
Maine Beekeepers Association) shows a sampling
of Maine honey.

In my paid work, I am co-director of the Maine Food Strategy, an initiative that aims to strengthen Maine’s food system through amplifying and strengthening existing groups, and helping to fill the gaps that will help Maine build a thriving food economy. Our website is mainefoodstrategy.org. If going to Augusta every month weren’t relevant to my job, I wouldn’t be able to take the time out of the office to do it, so that’s helpful!

In my personal life, I am a beekeeper who wants to know more about the big picture of which my bees are part. Going to AGCOM meetings is educational because at each month’s meeting, there are always one or two speakers there to tell us about their work, as well as an update from Kennebec Community College, UMaine Cooperative Extension (which sponsors and organizes a lot of bee schools), three USDA state offices, and the state’s department of ag (the new DACF).

During this past meeting, for example, the UMaine Orono representative mentioned the bill coming up related to a moratorium on pesticides containing neonicotinoids. I was able to share with the group that the MSBA had voted to testify to the legislative committee about this bill. The bill has since been dropped by its sponsor, who wants to write it better and re-introduce it in the next session; when that time comes, I’ll be at the table to talk about the beekeepers’ perspective. The MSBA could even request time on AGCOM’s agenda to make a presentation about this subject when it comes up again, giving them influence with some significant votes in Maine’s ag sector.

I’d say about 90% of the updates, learning, and discussion around this table are not connected to apiary management or bee health, but in those moments when something comes up, I do the best I can to advocate for our dear friends, the bees.

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