Statewide Initiatives

Statewide Highlights

Protecting Maine’s Poultry and Egg Industry

Maine’s poultry and egg industries are worth over $75 million yearly. Because the University of Maine Animal Health Lab (UMAHL) provides the FDA-required salmonella testing for medium- to large-sized egg producers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, these farms can operate within FDA’s Egg Rule. This work aids in prevention of human salmonellosis (SE) that might be acquired through eggs. The estimated cost to the egg industry of an SE outbreak could be higher than 10% of production. The impact of salmonella prevention is estimated to be more than $7 million per year. UMAHL handled over 6,000 avian samples during reporting year 2015.

During 2015, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) caused the death of more than 49 million poultry in the United States. If this disease comes to our region, substantial losses to the commercial egg industry would result. UMAHL is working with small and large producers to increase biosecurity and preparedness for emergencies such as HPAI.

Protecting Maine’s Dairies

Many of Maine’s more than 8,000 small farms have dairy animals. Increasingly, organic and small ruminant dairies are producing a diverse collection of artisanal cheeses and alternative milk products. For public safety and quality control, dairies must keep pathogenic bacteria out of their dairy animals and dairy products. Culturing milk samples is key to protecting all of Maine’s dairies.

In 2014-2015, the UMaine Animal Health Lab cultured approximately 2,000 milk samples for mastitis; 4.5 percent were positive for Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause serious human illness. Because S. aureus cannot usually be cleared from the udder, culling chronically infected cows is advised to protect the public and avoid the spread of this disease on dairies. Maine’s dairy owners and dairy product consumers benefit from our local, responsive mastitis diagnostic service. We screen samples from both large and small dairies for mycoplasma, S. aureus, and other pathogens. Allowing farmers to administer antibiotics appropriately, and to avoid excessive antibiotic use by culling animals with incurable infections, saves money and protects public health.

Picutes of chickens, cows and grass.

IPM Strategies for Sweet Corn

Sweet corn comprises nearly half of the commercial vegetable acreage in Maine but may bring only marginal profits due partly to high pest management costs. Sweet corn is an ideal candidate for integrated pest management (IPM) strategies. UMaine Extension set up insect traps and trained student field scouts to monitor sweet corn pest populations. Information gathered was summarized and shared with growers, ag consultants, and extension educators around Maine through a weekly newsletter and blog. Corn IPM techniques were demonstrated at two grower field days.

Growers adopting these techniques noticed significant reductions in pest management costs and reduced risk of pesticide exposure to themselves and the environment. Of the participants responding to a post-season survey, 61% used the information to reduce the number of pesticide sprays they applied, 69% found the program significantly reduced pest management costs, and more than 75% found that IPM techniques improved their crop yield and quality. Applying sample results to numbers from recent state agricultural statistics suggests that Maine growers conservatively reduced insecticide applications by over 100,000 gallons this season and saved over $100 per acre on insecticide costs.

Expanding and Diversifying Maine’s Local Wheat Economy

UMaine Extension secured over $1 million of funding in 2015 for a diverse program that generates region-specific, research-based information and provides educational and networking opportunities for participants in the grain economy. Key collaborators include MOFGA, the Maine Grain Alliance, the University of Vermont, and the US Organic Grain Collaboration. Maine and New England farmers have access to information on local grain production, markets, quality standards, and economics.

Farmers are successfully supplying new and expanding grain markets with high quality organic and heirloom grain.

Food Safety Education for Families and Commercial Food Producers

Each year 48 million people in the U.S. contract foodborne illnesses. Food safety risks exist in home food preparation and preservation, in people serving crowds, and in retail and commercial manufacturing and sales. These groups prepare or process food for others, often without proper

A woman is provided private food safety consulting.
A woman is provided private food safety consulting.

food safety training, leading to increased occurrences of foodborne illness. UMaine Extension provides food safety training programs including food preservation; home food safety; Cooking for Crowds; industrial food sanitation; Good Agricultural Practices; Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) certification; and soon, Food Safety Modernization Act trainings.

Extension provides private food safety consulting and process authority food product reviews to companies statewide. These programs directly reached and trained over 10,000 people in Maine.

In addition, the food process authority lab reviewed over 500 products, leading to added income and jobs across Maine and New Hampshire. In almost all cases one-on-one food safety consulting led to increased revenue, retention of jobs, and/or increased hiring. One new startup company hired 171 employees and said, “Extension’s work with our company has contributed to the safe production of 7.2 million pounds of lobster per year with a value of over $36 million.”

Eat Well: Responding to Food Insecurity

Maine Cooperative Extension’s EFNEP paraprofessionals educate Maine’s limited-income families and youth to help them make better lifestyle choices and improve their nutritional well-being. EFNEP participants learn how to eat well on a budget and apply what they learn to their daily lives. These positive changes will eventually help reduce the incidence of obesity and chronic disease of limited income families in Maine. As a result of completing the Eat Well program (320 adult participants surveyed): 74% showed improvement in one or more food resource management practice, 81% showed improvement in one or more nutrition practice, and 68% showed improvement in one or more food safety practice. Eat Well graduates reported increasing fruit and vegetable intake by one-half cup per day and self-reported increases in fiber, calcium, and vitamin D intake. 15% of Eat Well graduates also reported increasing physical activity to at least 30 minutes per day.

Maine Harvest for Hunger

Maine has the highest rate of food insecurity in New England, and ranks twelfth in the United States. Forty-three percent of food-insecure people do not qualify for food stamps or other government program. It is challenging for food-insecure people to afford fresh, nutritious food, and donations of fresh produce to Maine’s emergency food system have declined recently. Since 2000, UMaine Cooperative Extension’s statewide Maine Harvest for Hunger (MHH) program has mobilized gardeners, farmers, businesses, schools, and civic groups to grow, glean, and donate high quality produce to distribution sites and directly to neighbors in need. In 2015, record-breaking donations of over 318,000 pounds (value of $537,000, based on an average $1.69 per pound) went to 188 distribution sites and to individuals. Nearly 500 volunteers in 14 counties collectively logged more than 5,000 hours.

4-H Camps Connecting Youth to Positive Community Experiences and Mentorship

In 2015 UMaine 4-H summer camps served 1,732 youth from all sixteen counties in Maine, thirty states, and three countries. Through living and working together, campers and staff became part of an interconnected community committed to a sustainable future. The opportunities to develop mastery of skills happens in the context of the residential camp and learning center setting where the “implicit curriculum” includes healthy nutrition and activities, inclusive and safe learning environments, and intentional leadership development. Youth and program alumni report that the 4-H Camp and Learning Center experience has helped them develop greater self-confidence, civic engagement, and personal and academic success.

Pictures of a barn, moose and a tick.

Protecting Wildlife Health

Maine has joined a group of laboratories that can “link” regional agencies with local diagnostic assistance for wild animals, the Northeast Wildlife Disease Cooperative (NWDC). Collaboration with the Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife has yielded information about the health of moose. The University of Maine Animal Health Lab (UMAHL) has hosted wildlife biologist trainings, provided diagnostic information for wildlife cases, and assisted in investigations of lead toxicosis in waterfowl.

A 2014 report to the Maine Office of Tourism and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife found that moose and waterfowl hunting brought more than $33 million to Maine annually, and supported more than 450 full- and part-time jobs. The work of the UMAHL helps ensure continued hunting opportunities in Maine.

Protecting Maine Citizens Against Lyme Disease

There were approximately 1,400 reported cases of Lyme disease in Maine last year (estimated to be a fraction of the actual number of cases). Providing outreach and services related to this increasingly common public health threat is an important issue in Maine. In 2014 UMaine Extension created and implemented an in-state tick identification program. This program has been expanded by creating and consistently updating an informational website, providing public presentations on ticks and vector-borne disease, and developing informational tick cards for distribution. Program activities also aided in the passage of an $8 million bond for a new biosecure laboratory that will be able to test ticks for pathogens. Tick specimens can be identified more quickly within the state, and upon completion of the new lab, ticks will be tested for pathogens, a service that is not currently offered in Maine.