AUGUSTA — To assist business owners facing food supply disruptions, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has compiled a new resource highlighting wholesale procurement channels available for agricultural and seafood products, including distributors, cooperatives, and direct-to-producer options.

The Maine Wholesale Foodservice Distributors for Institutional Buyers list was also created in response to food supply issues facing some Maine summer camps and restaurants.

DACF’s Maine Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources invites food producers with wholesale capacity within the state’s local food network to complete a brief questionnaire to determine capacity to be added to the online resource.

“We are committed to doing all that we can to help to make connections for our farmers,” said Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources Director Nancy McBrady, according to a news release from DACF. “DACF is working to gather data and stakeholder input surrounding food infrastructure needs in the state, while we remain dedicated to better understanding and addressing those needs.”

“The good news is that Maine farmers, growers, and harvesters are hard at work, and we are entering the peak of production, so there is plenty of food available locally,” said DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal. “Buyers may have to work through new channels to get all of the products they are looking for, or align their menus with food that is in season, which could ultimately help to build resilience in their food programs by diversifying sources, as well as benefit Maine’s farmers, fishermen, and communities directly.”

Individuals, restaurants, caterers, and institutions can access the department’s Real Maine program, created and administered by DACF’s bureau. It is a publicly-available online resource designed to connect consumers with Maine farmers and food producers.

Reuters recently reported that restaurants are facing shortages of key ingredients and products due to supply bottlenecks. In the same report, St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said food supply bottlenecks could continue “well into 2022.”

Current supply-chain issues reinforce the need for Maine to pursue more efforts to support robust and resilient food systems, including rebuilding critical food processing infrastructure. Additionally, in Maine Won’t Wait, the state’s four-year climate action plan released last December, Maine’s Climate Council set far-reaching goals, including increasing the amount of food consumed in Maine from state food producers from 10% to 30% by 2030 through local food system development. That will require research, development, and planning to support the growth and resilience of Maine’s food system.

In response to this need, DACF and the Departments of Marine Resources and Economic and Community Development recently surveyed Maine’s agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sectors to determine infrastructure investment priorities in these heritage industries. Responses helped identify opportunities for businesses growth, including expanded onsite storage and increased co-packing options, particularly for growing grain, meat, dairy, vegetable, and fruit production. With targeted support, DACF aims to continue working to build a springboard for sustainable growth of Maine’s agricultural economy in a way that benefits producers, consumers and foodservice businesses alike.

For more information about Maine’s Heritage Industry Infrastructure research, contact Claire Eaton, DACF director of Natural Resource Markets & Economic Development, at [email protected].

For more information about Real Maine, visit realmaine.com.

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