The Maine Harvest Credit Project has reached its $2.4 million fundraising goal, paving the way for the nation’s first credit union catering exclusively to farmers and food entrepreneurs.

Backers of the credit union announced Monday that the project had fulfilled its funding goal and received the endorsement of Maine’s congressional delegation.

“We believe that this new, specialized credit union is important both to the credit union industry and to the continued growth of Maine’s food-based economy,” Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin said in a joint statement, adding that they are asking the National Credit Union Administration to carefully consider Maine Harvest’s pending application for charter and licensure.

Once chartered, Maine Harvest would offer specialized loans and mortgages to farmers and food entrepreneurs in the state with the goal of boosting Maine’s growing agricultural economy.

In March 2017, the credit union project announced that it had reached a major milestone with the formation of an expert panel of 15 organizers, including Goodwill Industries of Northern New England’s former president and CEO, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, whose grandfather Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration was responsible for passing the Federal Credit Union Act of 1934. The act created the Bureau of Federal Credit Unions to charter and regulate federal credit unions. The bureau was replaced in 1970 with the current National Credit Union Administration.

Other organizers include Maine Farmland Trust President and CEO Amanda Beal, Misty Brook Farms owner Katia Holmes and cPort Credit Union Vice President Chris Van Dyck.

Maine Harvest’s goal is to establish a credit union that its backers believe would fill a gap in available financing for the state’s food producers by offering land-backed mortgages in the $100,000 to $400,000 range, small-business loans of $60,000 to $125,000, and equipment loans of $20,000 to $40,000.

If chartered and licensed, Maine Harvest would become part of the Maine Credit Union League, and its members would have access to shared branching and ATMs within its statewide network.

The league’s board recently approved a significant donation that put Maine Harvest over the funding finish line, according to a news release issued Monday.

“Starting a credit union isn’t easy; it takes a lot of time, money, paperwork and dedicated people to guide the process,” said league President and CEO Todd Mason. “The people behind this have worked tirelessly.”

Maine Harvest’s founders said they have over 60 years of combined experience in the financial sector, along with deep roots in Maine.

Co-founder Sam May was the senior wireless technology analyst for US Bancorp Piper Jaffray in Silicon Valley, and co-founder Scott Budde initiated TIAA’s first department focused on impact investing strategies. Budde also created new investment programs in microfinance and community bank deposits that deployed over $240 million in new capital, according to the news release.

Growing up in midcoast Maine in the 1950s, May spent considerable time on a dairy farm, while Budde graduated from Bowdoin College in 1981, it said.

“Maine’s growing food economy needs access to capital,” May said. “We’ve crisscrossed the entire state talking with Maine’s most hard-working farmers to learn what they need most to become competitive – better access to capital.”

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jcraiganderson

This story was updated at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 16 to correct the title for Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

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