The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set news policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com . Nichole Price is the director of the Bigelow Center for Seafood Solutions at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Cold nights, bright lights and flavorful scents of savory food are sure signs the holiday season is upon us. This time of year offers an opportunity for us all to pause, reflect and take a moment to extend gratitude for farmers and fisherfolk from Maine and beyond who bring safe, affordable and abundant food to our homes. Food is the centerpiece of the holidays. Familiar family recipes have a way of pulling people together and providing comfort, particularly during times of challenge and uncertainty. But we often take for granted the complexity of the global food system, including how food is grown and the indispensable role of science in sustainable food production. Maine is a national leader in food and farm innovation with research institutions, universities and private companies across the state investing in solutions to improve animal health, reduce on-farm environmental impact and promote human wellness. And our state sits uniquely positioned to introduce creative blue economy solutions into agriculture. Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay is one of Maine’s leading research institutions and a global blue economy research powerhouse. By studying the foundation of global ocean health, the institute’s scientists are unlocking the potential of the ocean to improve the future for all life on the planet. One of Bigelow Laboratory’s key research projects is known as the Coast-Cow-Consumer (C3) initiative. Its goal is to help dairy farmers reduce their environmental impact by introducing microalgae and Maine-grown seaweed into animal feed. The theory is that aquaculture solutions will improve the gut health of dairy cattle and reduce methane releases. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is proving challenging to livestock farmers and food companies seeking to purchase sustainably sourced meat and dairy products. Bigelow Laboratory’s C3 project is showing great promise. It is drawing interest from investors, seaweed processors and global livestock feed companies. So far, it has drawn more than $25 million in public and private funding to Maine. It is bringing world-class researchers here and promises to create new income opportunities for Maine’s land and sea farmers. The success of this project also will enhance Maine’s working waterfront, already home to our nation’s leading seaweed farming sector, and boost Maine’s growing bioeconomy. But this budding big opportunity for Maine is not a sure thing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) system for regulating animal feed is not keeping pace with the kind of innovation proving successful in Bigelow Laboratory’s C3 project. Currently, the FDA offers two regulatory tracks for animal feed: 1) a “feed additive” track that is limited to nutritional content claims; and 2) an “animal drug” track that is limited to disease prevention claims. To keep pace with science, including the great work undertaken by Bigelow Laboratory, and to catch up to our global competitors who are speeding animal feed products to the marketplace, the FDA must create a new track that allows for environmental claims. Fortunately, the FDA is working with Congress, as well as researchers and industry, to fix this problem through federal legislation. In June, a bipartisan group of senators introduced S. 1842, the Innovative Feed and Economic Development (IFEED) Act. This measure would establish a new feed additive regulatory category — for so-called “zootechnical animal food substances” — that do not impact animal nutrition, but rather act in the animal’s gut to produce an environmental benefit. This legislation is making its way through Congress. We are pleased that U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is a co-sponsor of this legislation and voted to support S. 1842 when the Senate health policy committee voted to advance the measure in July. A bipartisan House version of this bill was recently introduced, and we are working to ensure it can become law in the coming months. Establishing this new FDA regulatory track will mean good things for Maine and our country. It will promote science and open commercial doors for proven research. It will enhance sustainability and build resilience into the food system that brings us bounty each holiday season and all year long.