Credit Union Wants To Lend Exclusively To Farms, Food Producers

By Lori Valigra
Bangor Daily News, Maine

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Food entrepreneurs in Maine may soon get a boost in making their dreams come true. A new Credit Union will focus on financially supporting their agricultural businesses.

Bangor Daily News, Maine

Maine Harvest Credit Project said Monday that it has raised the $2.4 million it needs to become chartered as the Pine Tree State’s 56th credit union.

If its charter is approved, the project claims it will become the first credit union in the country to lend only to farmers and food entrepreneurs with the aim of boosting Maine’s agricultural economy.

“Stronger local food systems are critical for improving environmental, community and personal health,” said co-founder Scott Budde, who co-founded Maine Harvest in 2016 with Scott May. “Our credit union work will be a key part of building that stronger system — one that can be replicated in other regions in America.”

Maine Harvest plans to begin staffing by next spring and to hire a specialized loan officer who understands the needs within the agricultural sector. It expects to open as an approved credit union in its headquarters in Unity by June.

“Our research estimates that there is about a $186 million financing gap among Maine farmers and food producers,” said Amanda Beal, president & CEO of Maine Farmland Trust, an organizing group with Maine Harvest. “Bridging that gap will keep farmers on their land, help others scale and grow and generally act as a catalyst for this entire industry.”

Maine Harvest said Maine has more than 8,000 farms that produce $3.8 billion in sales and create 24,000 jobs statewide. The agricultural sector is one of the largest in the state, bringing younger people to Maine. An estimated 40 percent of farmers are age 34 or younger.

All four of Maine’s U.S. congressional delegates supported Maine Harvest’s desire to be a chartered credit union in a letter to the National Credit Union Administration.

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