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Daily News Blog

28
Mar

Maine Fund to Compensate Farmers for PFAS Contaminated Land Underscores Need for Action

Last week, the first application was filed for Maine’s first-in-the nation PFAS Fund to compensate impacted farmers.

(Beyond Pesticides, March 28, 2024) Last week, Maine Central reported the first application was filed for Maine’s first-in-the nation PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) Fund. This $70 million federal-state Fund to Address PFAS Contamination (PFAS Fund) provides compensation for commercial farmers whose health, business, and land have been impacted by PFAS contamination. A critical component of this fund enables the state to purchase contaminated farmland at fair market, pre-contamination value, which in the state of Maine hovers at approximately $3,729 per acre when including estimated market value of land and buildings, according to newly released data in the 2022 Census of Agriculture. “Maine became the first state to ban sludge recycling and approve a 2030 ban on PFAS in nonessential products,” according to reporting by Maine Central.

The state of Maine has exhibited extraordinary leadership in prioritizing public health, ecosystems, and the environment, setting an example for addressing a widespread contamination problem at the local, state, and national level. However, advocates in Maine are raising warnings after the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, according to reporting by Portland Press Herald, proposed “a compromise plan to regulate the sale of products containing forever chemicals [which] would exempt some federally regulated industries such as the automotive, aeronautical, and defense sectors from [the] 2030 ban on the sale of products that contain forever chemicals, even if a safer chemical alternative is available.” Beyond Pesticides will continue to track updates on this proposed plan as more details emerge. 

Jim Britt, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) spokesperson, shared in a March 18 press release the expanded funding opportunities through the PFAS Fund, building on the framework of the existing PFAS Response Program: “Commercial farmers who have been impacted by PFAS contamination can now apply for an expanded suite of financial support programs:

  • Administrative Cost Grants: A one-time grant intended to partially compensate commercial farms for time spent on activities common to most farms upon the initial discovery of PFAS contamination.
  • Income Replacement Payments: Commercial farms that have stopped selling some or all products due to PFAS contamination may apply to DACF for up to a total of 24 months of lost income support, adjusted for inflation, while they avail DACFs technical assistance to determine a viable path forward.
  • Technical Assistance / Professional Services: Financial support for professional services to help guide recovery efforts (e.g., business planning).
  • Clean Feed Assistance: Short-term financial support for clean feed when it is necessary for the health and welfare of livestock and when clean feed is not available from the farm.
  • Equipment and Input Cost Grants: Financial support for equipment and related input costs to allow a commercial farm to convert its operations to accommodate new products and production methods.
  • Infrastructure Grants: Financial support for infrastructure projects (permanent physical assets and structures) that will help a commercial farm transition to new products and production methods.
  • Debt Service on Existing Loans: Payments toward loan obligations directly related to farm infrastructure built/installed just prior to the discovery of PFAS contamination.
  • New Loan Assistance: Financial support for costs associated with obtaining new loans.”

A growing list of state governments and industry actors are moving to phase out and ultimately ban PFAS in consumer products:

  • “Maine, Minnesota, and Washington have given state agencies the authority to ban PFAS in a wide range of products.
  • Twelve states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawai’i, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, have enacted phase-outs of PFAS in food packaging.
  • Eight states, including California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Maine, New York, Vermont, and Washington, have adopted restrictions on PFAS in carpets, rugs, and/or aftermarket treatments.
  • Six states, including California, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington, are taking action to eliminate PFAS in cosmetics.
  • Twelve states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington, have banned the sale of firefighting foam containing PFAS.
  • 32 unique retail chains, [including Burger King, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Sweetgreen, among others,] have committed to eliminating or reducing PFAS in food packaging, textiles and/or other products.”

Significant documentation and scientific research indicates the adverse health effects of PFAS for humans, wildlife, ecosystems, and environmental justice communities. A 2023 Environmental International study published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reveals that 45% of U.S. tap water is contaminated with at least one of the more than 12,000 types of PFAS. This percentage is likely to be on the low end, according to USGS Survey authors, given that only 32 of the 12,000 types of PFAS are detectable by their lab tests. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year proposed new limits to PFAS levels in drinking water. The urgency of public health implications for PFAS is stark, given that they have been found in water supplies in nearly 3,000 locations in all 50 states and two territories. PFAS chemicals have also been found in human breast milk, umbilical cord blood, deer meat, fish, and beef. One study using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found PFAS compounds in 97% of Americans. Studies have suggested a wide range of health effects, including raised cholesterol levels, high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia during pregnancy, and increased risk of kidney cancer. Just as Bayer/Monsanto have faced waves of lawsuits regarding failure to warn liability claims of the severe adverse health impacts on their product labels, industrial chemical companies have faced similar scrutiny in the legal realm. In 2023, DuPont, Chemours, and Corteva agreed to a $1.185 billion dollar settlement with cities and towns across the United States to cover the cost of PFAS remediation and monitoring in public drinking water systems. To learn more about policy action, litigative history, and scientific literature, see the Daily News Archive on PFAS.

Beyond Pesticides is committed to eliminating the use of toxic petrochemical pesticides, including PFAS, by 2032. To realize this goal, we continuously engage grassroots organizers, communities, and cross-cutting movements in actions to contact state legislatures, Congress, and federal agencies. In 2024 alone, there are two ongoing actions to participate in including “Tell Your Delegate to Protect Marylanders from ‘Forever’ PFAS Pesticides” and “Tell Congress to Protect Farmers and the Public from PFAS.”

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides. 

Sources: Central Maine, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry

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