In this Sept. 24, 2020, file photo, a large cloud of dust appears behind a potato harvester as it gathers the crops to send to the potato house. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

Maine lawmakers are considering boosting the state’s agriculture sector in the age of climate change by creating a new grant program to help farmers survive droughts.

Droughts have hurt the state’s agriculture sector, which includes a large potato industry, in recent years. Senate President Troy Jackson has submitted a bill that would create the grant program for all farmers in the state to help them find new water sources for irrigation, Maine Public reported.

The proposal was the subject of a public hearing Thursday and will go before a legislative committee on March 10. Donald Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board, said potato farmers in the state saw a 25 percent decrease in harvested yield in 2019.

Nancy McBrady, the director of Maine’s Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, said farmers in the state also need technical support to help improve soil health.

Those practices will “help to build resilience for farms in the face of climate change, and projected incidences of excessive rainfall or prolonged periods of drought and temperature variability,” she said.