AUGUSTA - Longtime Maine Dairy Industry Association (MDIA) Executive Director, Julie-Marie Bickford, is the recipient of the **Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) 2020 Commissioner's Distinguished Service Award**. A Topsham resident, Bickford received the award at Tuesday's Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioners Luncheon, held during the opening day of the 79th annual Maine Agricultural Trades Show.

Amanda Beal, DACF Commissioner, presented the award and recognized Bickford in front of an audience including Governor Janet Mills, representatives of all four Congressional offices, state legislators, past DACF Commissioners, and over 300 friends of Maine agriculture.

**"Our dairy industry would not be what it is today without Julie-Marie's guidance and innumerable hours of devotion," said Beal. From playing a key role in establishing the Maine Dairy Stabilization Program (also known as the Tier program), to advocating on the federal level to improve the Federal Order pricing system, to just being there and being a voice for our dairy farmers, whenever and wherever shes needed, Julie-Maries contributions are many."**

The Commissioners Distinguished Service Award is presented annually to individuals making significant contributions to Maine's agricultural industry. Bickford was selected because of her nearly 20 years of advocating for our dairy industry and her constant and steady support of agriculture in Maine.

Bickford grew up in Northern Maine in an active agricultural community whose dominant crops were potatoes, broccoli, and grains. Though she didnt grow up on a farm, she will assure you that you cant be from the County and not have a good understanding of agriculture. From hand-picking potatoes, to scooping Houlton Farms ice cream, Bickford learned the value of hard work and the importance of supporting local farmers.

She was elected to the Maine Legislature in 1992, representing her hometown of Caribou, and served two terms in the House of Representatives. She later served as a State Office Assistant to US Senator William Cohen and then US Senator Olympia Snowe.

These, and other experiences, positioned Bickford to be a powerful advocate for Maines dairy farmers when she stepped into the role with MDIA, first as a consultant, and later as Executive Director. MDIA has seen significant growth in both the scope and magnitude of activities and participation in the Maine agricultural and governmental communities since first hiring Bickford. In addition, she is active in monitoring and being a resource to numerous agencies and commissions, and also represents MDIA on the University of Maines Board of Agriculture and AgCOM, where she is currently serving as President.

###ABOUT DACF

DACF is the State of Maine's support center for land-based, natural resource interests. The Department balances for and develops the state's various land-based, natural-resources including Maine agriculture, forests, outdoor recreation, and public access. DACF helps guide Maine's 21st-century natural resource economy by supporting the creation of new jobs and businesses, improving and supporting existing land-based industries and streamlining regulations. DACF professionals work to strengthen the base of scientific research and information for effective decision-making. DACF has a wide range of duties from protecting the food we eat, stopping forest fires, mapping the ocean floor; keeping our parks and public lands pristine and accessible, planning wise land utilization, and helping beginning farmers. To explore DACF's hundreds of activities and programs, and to learn, more about the department's responsibilities, go online to https://www.maine.gov/dacf

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- A high quality .jpg is linked below - Please credit Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. - Pictured left to right, Nancy McBrady, Bureau Director, Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources; Julie-Marie Bickford, Executive Director, Maine Dairy Industry Association; Amanda Beal, DACF Commissioner. - Plaque inscription: "In the nearly 20 years that you have served as the Executive Director of the Maine Dairy Industry Association, your constant and steady support for our dairy farmers has been impactful and greatly appreciated. Thank you for your ongoing advocacy on behalf of Maines dairy farmers, and for all you do to support agriculture in Maine."