Arundel dairy farmer devastated by PFAS fights for state aid

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State agriculture officials are expected to implement an income replacement program soon.

ARUNDEL, Maine — A state income replacement program for Maine farms struggling with financial losses from toxic chemical contamination, known as PFAS, is expected to roll out within weeks. But the owner of a York County farm fears he will fall through the cracks.

Fred Stone and his wife Laura took over the century-old Stoneridge farm in the mid-1970s, supplying several thousand gallons of milk per week to the Oakhurst dairy. But instead of looking forward to retirement, the couple are stuck in a toxic nightmare.

“We cried and killed a lot of those cows, and there are no more tears,” Stone said.

The family’s legacy took a huge hit five and a half years ago when high levels of PFAS chemicals were found in his cow’s milk, soil, feed and drinking water. Stone alerted state regulators, pulling the milk off the shelves. He eventually had to slaughter the majority of Brown Swiss and Holstein cows on the farm, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

RELATED: Toxic PFAS Contamination Disaster Is a Nightmare for Maine Farmers

“We’re the ones who put this forward, and we paid a hell of a price for it,” Stone said.

Earlier this year, officials from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry announced plans for a short-term income replacement program to help farms devastated by PFAS contamination.

Stone sent Nancy McBrady, director of DACF’s Office of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, information about the expenses and lost income in hopes of receiving financial assistance.

Earlier this month, Stone received an email from McBrady informing him that the income replacement program is designed for farms that have recently suffered losses from contamination.

Stone fears that he and other farmers whose contamination was discovered before 2022 could fall through the cracks.

“It’s a situation where it kills the messenger and not the message,” Stone explained.

He is also fighting for compensation for his dead cows, through the US Department of Agriculture’s Dairy Indemnity Program.

“They are facing extreme financial hardship,” said Susan Collins, (R) Maine.

During a congressional hearing last month, Senator Susan Collins chastised US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for not responding promptly to requests she made for financial assistance to dairy farmers in the Maine with infected cows.

“We’re working with the EPA to try to establish a national standard on what’s an acceptable level of PFAS, so we can basically help define the level of assistance and assistance required,” Vilsack said.

Jim Britt, the DACF spokesman, told the NEWS CENTER that the department plans to roll out the income replacement program in the near future, which will be open to farms contaminated with current and previous PFASs. The department says it will also work with Fred to begin the application process.

“The income replacement program is new and beginning. It is open to farms currently contaminated with PFAS and those that discovered contamination before 2022. The Department has worked with three currently contaminated farms while we are rolling out the program. We We anticipate that the program will continue to evolve, including working with farms that have gone out of business, like Mr. Stone.This is the context Director McBrady provided to Mr. Stone in her communication earlier this month. To date, Fred has not applied for the income replacement program, sharing preliminary information with Director McBrady earlier this year before the income replacement program was fully formulated. The Department will work with Mr. Stone to formally initiate the application process and looks forward to finding ways to assist him.

“The new PFAS Fund included in the Governor’s budget focuses specifically on assisting affected farms. Farms with current and past PFAS contamination will be able to apply for assistance from this Fund, which will have funding To the extent that new income from the DACF replacement program may not meet the needs of some farms, the Fund will likely allow for additional support Maine Farmland Trust and MOFGA also have funds available to work with affected farms – you may wish to contact them regarding their ability to support farms with PFAS pollution before 2022.

“In addition to the above programs, the DACF and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection currently work and have historically worked with farms to ensure water is clean for both residential use When a farm is found to have potable water that exceeds the Maine Provisional Water Consumption Standard for PFAS, DEP and DACF coordinate with the farm to ensure that the correct type of filtration system is sometimes the farm may want to do the installation on its own and request a refund. In these cases the farm receives advice from the DEP and DACF as to the design and refund parameters. To be clear, the Department does not wants to see no farm fail and understands the tremendous pressure on farms that have gone out of business. We intend to work closely with all farms and look forward to working with Mr. Stone. Well, this is a new program, and we appreciate Mr. Stone’s patience and perspective on his experience and needs. The department will contact Mr. Stone. to help with the application and start discussing her needs,” Britt said.

But the couple, who still raise a small number of cows to display at agricultural shows in New Hampshire, say no amount of aid will restore them.

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