IMPORTANT: LD 783 Is Not Dead

March 25, 2016

From our ever stalwart Local Food RULES activist Bonnie Preston:

After a couple of days of being really bummed out about the Senate vote on the Constitutional amendment bill (LD 783), I am thrilled to report that it is not dead. It was rushed through the Senate without any discussion, after caucus meetings (both parties) that were very negative and filled with misinformation and invective. The House has now insisted to the Senate that they hold a proper session, with floor speeches and discussion, and “recede and concur.” in essence, hold another vote. This likely will happen on Monday.

We have the weekend to flood Senators with e-mails and phone calls. Representatives Craig Hickman, Karl Ward and Don Marean all made floor speeches in the House which were heartfelt and rousing. They are at least a part of why we won in the house with the overwhelming numbers that we did. Thank you messages to these three would be really nice! Karl and Don are both GOP. Craig is a Democrat and the originator of the bill. Bipartisanship at its best.

Check this list of Senate votes, remembering that a No vote is on our side and a Yes vote is not–note that the motion was to accept the minority report. If your Senator voted with us, thank them and ask if they will talk to others in their party who may have voted against us about changing their vote. If your Senator voted on the wrong side, ask him or her to reconsider and give your reasons. If they will be running for reelection in Nov., let them know this is a vote you will take very seriously when making your decision on who to vote for.

We won this in the House; now let’s win it in the Senate!

Bonnie


Action Alert: Contact Your Representative and Senator Today!

March 20, 2016

  Call and/or email your legislators and ask them to vote yes on LD783, “Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Establish a Right to Food.”

LD 783 would allow Maine people to vote on a referendum in November 2016.

Here is the question as it would appear on the ballot:

“Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to acquire, produce, process, prepare, preserve and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment and sustenance and to barter, trade and purchase food from the sources of their own choosing for their own bodily health and well-being?” 

If Maine voters approve the question in November, the following section would added to the Declaration of Rights in the Constitution of Maine:

Sec 25. Right to food freedom; food self-sufficiency; bodily health and well-being.                        

All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to acquire, produce, process, prepare, preserve and consume the food of their own choosing, for their own nourishment and sustenance, by hunting, gathering, foraging, farming, fishing, gardening or saving and exchanging seeds, provided that no individual commits trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the acquisition of food; furthermore, all individuals have a right to barter, trade or purchase food from the sources of their own choosing, for their own bodily health and well-being and every individual is fully responsible for the exercise of these rights, which may not be infringed.



A bipartisan majority of legislators on Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry voted in support of LD 783. It now goes to the House of Representatives and Senate to decide whether to send the question to voters.
LD 783 is about food choice, food self-sufficiency, and individual responsibility. 

This bill does not change or preempt any food safety laws currently on the books. 

The House of Representatives may vote on LD783 the morning of Tuesday, March 22nd.

The Maine Senate will likely vote soon after.

Find the contact information for the Representative and Senator who represents your town in the Maine legislature online at: legislature.maine.gov/house/townlist.htm

Leave a brief message for your Representative on Tuesday morning, including your name, town, contact info, and a request that they support LD 783, “Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Establish a Right to Food,” and allow Maine people to vote on food choice in November.


Protect Food Freedom in Maine’s Constitution Now

March 9, 2016

  Do we have the freedom of choice about how and where we acquire food for our own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being?

Of course we do. These rights are as natural, inherent, and unalienable as the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Ultimately, each of us deserves the freedom to work out our own nutrition and food regimen. You might be surprised to find out, however, that these rights are not protected by the constitution, nor are they recognized by U.S. courts, nor by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Food is Life. Do we have a right to obtain the food we wish, or don’t we? It’s really that simple. Let’s put it in black and white. Let’s put it in writing.”

  

—Rep. Craig Hickman, Bill Sponsor of LD 783
With your help, Maine could become the first state in the nation to provide constitutional protection for our right to obtain the food we wish to eat, to grow and produce food for our own sustenance, and the right to save and exchange seed.

TAKE ACTION: Please tell Maine lawmakers to let the people decide on our right to choose where and how we acquire food for our own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being. Tell Maine lawmakers to let LD 783, RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to Constitution of Maine to Establish a Right to Food Freedom and Food Self-Sufficiency go to the ballot box for ratification in November.

Why do we need to amend the Constitution of Maine to include food rights in our state’s Declaration of Rights?

In a 2010 District Court case, the FDA explicitly stated that we do not possess these natural, inherent, and unalienable rights.

“There is no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food.”

“There is no ‘deeply rooted’ historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds.”

“[The] assertion of a fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health…is unavailing because [consumers] do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.”

Food lawyer Peter Hutt states, “The constitutional authority of the government to determine the food that can lawfully be marketed, and the constitutional right of the individual to personal freedom and control over his own destiny, will at some juncture inevitably conflict.” 

That day of conflict has arrived and we have the opportunity to make this moment of conflict transformational with the proposed constitutional amendment:

Section 25. Right to food freedom and food self-sufficiency. All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to acquire, produce, process, prepare, preserve and consume the food of their own choosing, for their own nourishment and sustenance, by hunting, gathering, foraging, farming, fishing, gardening and saving and exchanging seeds, as long as no individual commits trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the acquisition of food. Furthermore, all individuals have a right to barter, trade and purchase food from the sources of their own choosing for their own bodily health and well-being. Every individual is fully responsible for the exercise of these rights, which may not be infringed.

TAKE ACTION NOW: LD 783 needs a 2/3 vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in order to put the question on the ballot this November. Tell Maine lawmakers that you want them to send LD 783 to the voters and let the People decide. 

A brief history of LD 783 and current updates: In the First Regular Session of the Maine Legislature last spring, Rep. Craig Hickman, a farmer in Winthrop, introduced LD 783 to add the right to food to Maine’s Declaration of Rights. Hundreds of Maine citizens showed up on the day of the public hearing and dozens offered testimony in favor of LD 783. The bill was carried over to the Second Regular Session to address concerns raised by some legislators and citizens that this bill could somehow be misconstrued to grant greater governmental authority over providing food to people, rather than securing and protecting individual rights. Or that it would promote trespassing, stealing, poaching and other abuses of private property rights. Even though no one interprets the right to keep and bear arms to mean the state must provide all people with firearms or that people have a right to steal firearms, all concerns were taken seriously and considered. In other words, the bill needed some time to ferment. In the period between sessions, Rep. Hickman sought input from Republicans and Democrats, Independents and Libertarians, conservatives and progressives, allies and foes, farmers and fishermen, chefs, cottage food producers, homesteaders and lawyers until the language was right. Like a big community pig roast barbecue, the amended version is the collaborative effort of many. 

Here’s what happened at the work session on February 4, 2016: Rep. Hickman struck his first proposal for the constitutional amendment and replaced it with an amendment that better reflects the voices of the People. LD 783 was amended into a proposal to establish a constitutional right to food freedom and food self-sufficiency, explicitly prohibiting theft, trespassing, poaching, or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the acquisition of food. Now, representing the input of both allies and opponents, LD 783 won committee support in a bipartisan majority Ought to Pass as Amended Report, 8 voting in favor of the motion, and 5 against. Voting with Rep. Hickman in favor of the majority report were Sen. James Dill of Old Town, Sen. Thomas Saviello of Wilton, Rep. Ralph Chapman of Brooksville, Rep. Michelle Dunphy of Old Town, Rep. Donald Marean of Hollis, Rep. Jeffrey McCabe of Skowhegan, and Rep. Robert Saucier of Presque Isle. We thank them for their votes.

Testimony Against. Although LD 783 does not amend or invalidate any food safety laws or regulations currently on the books, the Director of the Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources in the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) testified against the bill at the public hearing last session, arguing that it would interfere with commercial farming but provided no evidence to support the claim. The representative from the Maine Farm Bureau testified against the bill suggesting that people who are harmed by hunger and poor nutrition need to depend more on food banks, not food self-sufficiency. This testimony plays right into the hands of the disempowering forces of programs rather than self-help, responsible liberty. More food choice, more food producers, and more community-embedded food options increase food production, food access and availability, food price competition, and ultimately benefits everyone, including the hungry. To assume that the most efficacious way to help the hungry is with more food banks promotes dependency and top-down policies.

On the day of the committee vote, DACF representatives urged committee members to oppose the measure making the claim that the department wouldn’t be able to enforce food safety regulations. Only a court could decide that, not the department, and only if an individual or group of individuals challenged a regulation in court. A cadre of lobbyists from the Big Food industry lobbied committee members hard to oppose the measure, doubling down on their claim that it would hurt Maine’s reputation and make Maine-produced food less marketable outside the state. Declaring a fundamental right to food choice and to our health could make Maine food less marketable? That’s a fear-based claim that just doesn’t make sense. Sen. Edgecomb of Caribou, Rep. Russell Black of Wilton, Rep. Anthony Edgecomb of Fairfield, Rep. MaryAnne Kinney of Knox, and Rep. Carol McElwee of Caribou all voted against the bill. Please call on these lawmakers to do the will of the People who testified in favor of the bill by voting FOR the Right to Food Freedom and Food Self-Sufficiency. Tell them that we want the chance to vote on this constitutional amendment at the ballot box. 

Here is how the question will read on the ballot:
“Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to acquire, produce, process, prepare, preserve and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment and sustenance and to barter, trade and purchase food from the sources of their own choosing for their own bodily health and well-being?”
Tell your State Representatives and your Senators to let the People say YES. 

 

Some of the voices who came to testify at last spring’s public hearing offer us good reasons to share with legislators on the importance and urgency of amending the Maine Constitution to add food freedom to our Declaration of Rights:
Rep. Craig Hickman of Winthrop, Maine, Sponsor of LD 783:

“Establishing a right to acquire the food of our choosing gives us, the People, legal ground to protect our own health, our property, our food and our lives. Just like the other rights declared in Article I of our Constitution, the right to food is a fundamental liberty right. It is a right increasingly infringed. If we protect it in our constitution, the strength of the law shifts, away from corporatist and government control of our food and our health and toward the People.

“There is nothing more intimate than eating. Who, other than you, should decide what you are allowed to eat for your own nourishment and sustenance?

“Let us stand on solid ground and establish legal protection for our health, for our happiness, for our liberty.”

 

Joel Salatin, Ecological Farming Guru at Polyface Farms in Virginia:

“The only reason the Founders of our Great Republic did not include food rights alongside the right to bear arms, to speak, and to worship was because no one at that time could have envisioned a day when citizens could not acquire the food of their choice from the source of their choice….
 “I can’t imagine a more basic human right, a more bipartisan issue, than protecting my right to choose my body’s food. Who could possibly think that such freedom of choice should be denied? We allow people to smoke, shoot, preach, home educate, spray their yards with chemicals, buy lottery tickets, and read about the Kardashians: wouldn’t you think we could let people choose their own food?
“It comes down to autonomous personhood. If I don’t have the freedom to feed my three-trillion-member internal community of microbes in the manner I choose, then the infringement of other rights, such as freedom of the press and freedom of religion, can’t be far behind.”
(Mr. Salatin flew north to offer testimony on this important opportunity to protect our food rights)
Hendrik Gideonse, Brooklin, Maine, on why we need this protection now:

“Adding an enabling right to acquire, barter, trade and purchase foods of our choosing for our own sustenance and health to the existing right to life and liberty would cloak our individual food choices in fundamental law. It would safeguard us against the actions of misguided corporations and government agencies seeking to keep us ill-informed about what we’re eating or against absurd claims, such as the Food and Drug Administration made in 2010, that people have no ‘fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health… because [consumers] do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.”
Joy Metcalf, Northport, Maine, on why LD 783 is so important:

“What is more fundamental to life than food, and what is more fundamental than the liberty to choose what foods we want to nourish our bodies and our families?”
Heather Retberg, Penobscot, Maine, on why the time is ripe for LD 783:

“Our access to food, our right to life, our right to the founding of life, seed, is increasingly legally controlled by corporate food monopolies. And when they sue, the law is often on their side. People lose. We lose our access to food, to food integrity, to our own bodily and physical health.
“LD 783 gives the people legal standing in court. It gives us legal protection when there are aggressive lawsuits that inhibit our ability to access healthy food or to grow food of our choosing. The time has come when we need this articulated and protected under Maine’s constitution.”
David Berg, Esq.:

“Food choice is not a new right; it is a right and a practice as old as civilization. It allows us to define our own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
Peter Hutt, food lawyer & David Berg, Esq.:

“Since we are free to choose or reject many other risks, it is difficult for the public to perceive why we should not also be free to choose, on an individual basis, the risks that we will accept in the food we eat. All forms of living entail some amount of risk. To the extent that eating is (…) risky, it should be for the consumer to determine how much governmental protection and how much risk she wants.”
Betsy Garrold, Knox, Maine, on the importance of the right to food:

“The right to procure healthy and nutritious food, by which life may be preserved and enjoyed, and to manufacture it, is among these inalienable rights, which…..no state can give, and no state can take away; it is involved in the right to pursue one’s happiness.”
ACT NOW to protect food freedom, food self-sufficiency, and our own health. Tell your State Representatives and Senators to let the People say YES on LD 783.  
Thank you for taking action.  


THE RIGHT TO FOOD FREEDOM; FOOD SELF-SUFFICIENCY; BODILY HEALTH AND WELL-BEING

February 15, 2016

by Heather Retberg

 

A work session of the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry on February 4th, turned a long shot proposal for a constitutional amendment into a fighting chance for establishing a right to food in Maine.  

While political tricks and lobbying acrobatics of past sessions have blocked food sovereignty bills and the bills that would have re-legitimized the direct exchange of food, the current bill proposal, LD 783, works differently. What we’ve experienced up until now has been a collusion of the Big Food Lobby with the Department of Agriculture to block bills that create or protect the legal space around small, diversified farms and facilitate access to real food. The threat of executive veto overshadowed the process and the lobbyists have always amplified this potential outcome. They have had success in stripping some of the small-farm friendly bills of food sovereignty and/or food freedom components by making threats about what might happen “on the 2nd floor” (read: the Governor’s office).
The Resolution to Propose an Amendment to Maine’s Constitution to Establish a Right to Food works differently than the bills to enact a law. Because LD 783 is a constitutional amendment, the role for the Governor is to proclaim the results of an eventual referendum vote on the proposal. There is no veto provision. There is one less weapon in the Big Food Lobby arsenal. The first step, like with other bills, is a public hearing before the committee of jurisdiction, in this case the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. If it receives an “ought to pass” vote, it faces the tough task of passing by 2/3 majority vote in both House and Senate. If LD 783 succeeds in securing this majority, it goes to us, the people of Maine, to vote on in November’s election. This process is all about the people and our representatives in the legislature.

Now, given all that as context…the committee room was plenty full of the Big Food Lobby at the work session earlier this month. Though there is no regulatory impact of enacting a constitutional protection for the right to food, the Department of Agriculture was also heavily represented. The room was also plenty full of citizens and a few farming organizations, Food for Maine’s Future and MOFGA, paying attention to the process and talking to legislators who have, over time, come to respect and understand our efforts.  

 

The bill’s sponsor and House Chair of the ACF Committee, Rep. Craig Hickman, gave a detailed and articulate explanation of the bill and reasoning for passage. He clarified the distinction between a law and enacting a constitutional protection of an inherent right. People across the state had been writing letters over the course of the week to the committee reminding them of the importance and urgency of this bill, asking for their positive vote to send it out to the people to vote on in November.  

 

After a brief discussion, the Republicans moved to caucus behind closed doors. This is never a good sign. The department officials moved to join them. This is an even more alarming sign. It looked like a partisan effort to kill the bill–a re-run of what had been attempted last session. This time, however, a few things went differently. When they all emerged from the room after too long a while, the department officials looked ashen. Two of the party weren’t going to allow the right to food to become a partisan issue (HOORAY for Rep. Marean and Sen. Saviello!), but were going to vote on the issues at hand. They had really listened to the public last spring, read the many letters, understood and responded. That meant LD 783 would get enough votes to pass!  

 

 

Some mysteries still remain. Why did Rep. Russell Black, the ranking Republican on the ACF Committee, co-sponsor this legislation last spring, then vote against it this winter? In a response to a constituent who posed that question, he stated that “the Dep’t. Of Ag was against it.” But, who is responsible for making the laws in Maine? The agencies? And should our elected representatives serve their needs/interests? This is democracy running backwards. The representatives should be serving the needs/interests of their constituents, people, not agencies. The agencies’ role is then to carry out the will of the people as passed through the legislature and committee of oversight, not the other way around.   
When the vote was taken, the bill received a majority “ought to pass” vote. It was a split vote (8-5), but that gives LD 783 a fighting chance on the floor of both houses. It remains an uphill battle, but LD 783 cleared the first hurdle. February 4th was a day of victory for access to real food and food rights!

Please encourage your representatives and senators to vote to support the majority report on LD 783 and send it to the people.  

 

Let the people decide. Onward. One step at a time.

  
People rally outside the capitol last spring for the Right to Food(LD 783) and the Right to Know

(LD 991).
“Ultimately, each of us deserves the freedom to work out our own nutrition and food regimen.”

  –Joel Salatin on LD 783 Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Establish a Right to Food

 

 

The text of LD 783 is below:

Sect. 25. Right to food freedom; food self-sufficiency; bodily health and well-being. All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to acquire, produce, process, prepare, preserve and consume food of their own choosing, for their own nourishment and sustenance, by hunting, gathering, foraging, farming, fishing, gardening or saving and exchanging seeds, provided that

no individual commits trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the acquisition of food; furthermore, all individuals have a right to barter, trade or purchase food from the sources of their own choosing, for their own bodily health and well-being; and every individual is fully responsible for the exercise of these rights, which may not be infringed.


Progress in Augusta

May 14, 2015

  Tuesday May 12, 2015 was a very good day for small farmers and their patrons in the Maine State Legislature.  The Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry met to have work sessions on four local food rights bills.   
The results were extremely gratifying for those of us who have worked so hard to protect the people of Maine’s rights to practice their traditional food ways.    Each of these bills seeks to advance the principles and the content, partially or in full, of the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance (LFCSGO) now passed in 13 towns in Maine.  While local control of food continues to spread outward from town to town in Maine, we now have a visible sign that the community governance of food may be ready to move upward to the state level as well!
These are just preliminary results but the strong support of the committee will go a long way to helping these bills pass on the floors of the House and the Senate.  Some legislators are very confident the bills will pass, but some suspect they could still be derailed by the unpredictable and unseen forces of Augusta politics. Don’t stop working on passing the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance if your town is considering it; it may prove more important than ever.

LD # 925  An Act To Promote Small Diversified Farms and Small Food Producers

Summary: This bill facilitates direct sales between Maine farmers and consumers. It allows persons preparing food in their own homes to sell directly to consumers or to offer homemade food at certain events without being licensed as food establishments.

NOTE:  A bill sponsored by one of our strongest allies in the House Representative Ralph Chapman was voted out of committee with a strong Ought To Pass with only one Representative voting against it.   [On 5/14 this bill was brought up again and the restrictions on where these transactions could take place, i.e. not at farmer’s markets, were reinstated and the vote was unanimous.]

LD # 1291    An Act To Promote Food Self-sufficiency for the People of the State

Summary:  This bill directs the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, in coordination with various state agencies, to develop and administer an agricultural jobs network linking farms and facilities that process agricultural products grown in the State with available workers who are involved in farming or a local food industry or who are required to perform community service and to develop an educational marketing campaign to promote food self-sufficiency by encouraging the public to grow gardens, to raise farm animals and to preserve garden-grown food. This bill also requires the department, to the extent practicable, to purchase food grown, harvested, prepared, processed or produced in the State when purchasing food for an emergency or supplemental food program for elderly or low-income persons.

NOTE: Representative Craig Hickman’s bill that covers all our bases and was voted out of committee with a unanimous Ought to Pass with a slight amendment to clarify language about end consumers.  In section 4 it contains the local food sovereignty language.

LD # 1376    An Act To Establish a Local Food Producers and Processors to Consumers Pilot Program

Summary:  This bill establishes the Local Food Producers and Processors to Consumers Pilot Program. The pilot program exempts local producers and processors in the towns of Blue Hill, Brooksville, Penobscot, Sedgwick and Brooklin, all of which have adopted local food self-governance ordinances, from all state licensure and inspection requirements with respect to the production and processing of local foods for sale directly to consumers. The pilot program is repealed in 2022. Each year the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is required to submit a report on the pilot program to the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over agricultural matters including any assessment of or comments about the pilot program provided by interested persons, including producers, processors and consumers participating in the pilot program. Upon receipt of the report, the committee may report out a bill relating to the pilot program.

NOTE:  This bill was sponsored by Senator Brian Langley and was voted out of committee unanimously Ought to Pass.   The towns listed are some of the first to pass the local food sovereignty ordinance and were chosen because of their geographic closeness allows for the easy forming of a local food council.

LD # 1284    An Act To Expand the Local Foods Economy

Summary:   This bill requires the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to administer programs to support the expansion and coordination of the use of fresh Maine foods in aggregated and institutional markets, including school food service programs.

The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is directed to provide grants under the agricultural development grant program for the purpose of conducting market feasibility studies and developing business plans for local food infrastructure operations in Maine to connect and enhance relationships between fresh food producers in Maine and aggregated and institutional markets, including school food service programs, and food purveyors. The Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry may not award a local foods grant unless the applicant provides matching funds in an amount that is no less than 50% of the grant amount.

The department is also directed to provide loans under the Agricultural Marketing Loan Fund to applicants in diverse geographic areas in the State for the purpose of establishing local food infrastructure operations located in Maine. Prior to awarding a local food infrastructure loan, the Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is required to determine that the potential overall impact of a proposal on Maine’s agricultural economy and industry is beneficial to and in the best interest of the State.

The bill also establishes the Maine Food Infrastructure Advisory Committee, which includes representatives of statewide and regional organizations involved in supporting agriculture, public health, the environment and the state economy, including representatives of the member entities of the farm-to-school work group established by Resolve 2009, chapter 106.

NOTE: This excellent bill introduced by Senator Chris Johnson and co sponsored by five members of the committee (Hickman, Dill, Saviello Chapman and Marean) sadly passed out of committee on a divided vote 7-5 Ought Not to Pass.  It may still go to a vote in the two houses so there is still hope.  It addresses our critical need to  rebuild the local food infrastructure.

You can find further information on these bills by going to the web site of the Maine Legislature (http://legislature.maine.gov/) and putting the bill number in the box labeled LD #.  Note that the Presenters of the bills in the work session are the original sponsors; each is approaching the issue of community self-governance of local food and protecting traditional food-ways from a different angle.  Each is also a co-sponsor of other bills; you can find all co-sponsors on the web site.  Look for your legislator and write in thanks if they are listed for any of these bills. Ask for their help on getting them passed in the full legislature.


More Food Rights Bills at the Maine State Legislature

May 5, 2015

  These bills will be heard on Thursday May 7th, 2015 by the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry in room 214 of the Cross Office Building in Augusta.   Immediately following the hearings on these bills the committee will go into work session to consider LD 783 the Right to Food Constitutional Amendment that had its public hearings last Thursday and LD 991 the act to amend the current GMO labeling law here in Maine.

Please join us if you can. 
HP0644, LD 925 An Act To Promote Small Diversified Farms and Small Food Producers
Representative Ralph Chapman’s bill to make the local food sovereignty ordinances statewide.
SUMMARY:   This bill facilitates direct sales between Maine farmers and consumers. It allows persons preparing food in their own homes to sell directly to consumers or to offer homemade food at certain events without being licensed as food establishments.
SP0459, LD 1284 An Act To Expand the Local Foods Economy
A bill submitted by Senator Chris Johnson concerning fresh food sales to institutions.
SUMMARY:   This bill requires the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to administer programs to support the expansion and coordination of the use of fresh Maine foods in aggregated and institutional markets, including school food service programs.
The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is directed to provide grants under the agricultural development grant program for the purpose of conducting market feasibility studies and developing business plans for local food infrastructure operations in Maine to connect and enhance relationships between fresh food producers in Maine and aggregated and institutional markets, including school food service programs, and food purveyors. The Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry may not award a local foods grant unless the applicant provides matching funds in an amount that is no less than 50% of the grant amount.
The department is also directed to provide loans under the Agricultural Marketing Loan Fund to applicants in diverse geographic areas in the State for the purpose of establishing local food infrastructure operations located in Maine. Prior to awarding a local food infrastructure loan, the Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is required to determine that the potential overall impact of a proposal on Maine’s agricultural economy and industry is beneficial to and in the best interest of the State.
The bill also establishes the Maine Food Infrastructure Advisory Committee, which includes representatives of statewide and regional organizations involved in supporting agriculture, public health, the environment and the state economy, including representatives of the member entities of the farm-to-school work group established by Resolve 2009, chapter 106.
HP0877, LD 1291 An Act To Promote Food Self-sufficiency for the People of the State
Representative Craig Hickman’s bill with the local food sovereignty ordinance in article 4.
SUMMARY:   This bill directs the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, in coordination with various state agencies, to develop and administer an agricultural jobs network linking farms and facilities that process agricultural products grown in the State with available workers who are involved in farming or a local food industry or who are required to perform community service and to develop an educational marketing campaign to promote food self-sufficiency by encouraging the public to grow gardens, to raise farm animals and to preserve garden-grown food. This bill also requires the department, to the extent practicable, to purchase food grown, harvested, prepared, processed or produced in the State when purchasing food for an emergency or supplemental food program for elderly or low-income persons.
SP0506, LD 1376 An Act To Establish a Local Food Producers and Processors to Consumers Pilot Program

Senator Brian Langley’s bill to establish a pilot program.

SUMMARY:  This bill establishes the Local Food Producers and Processors to Consumers Pilot Program. The pilot program exempts local producers and processors in the towns of Blue Hill, Brooksville, Penobscot, Sedgwick and Brooklin, all of which have adopted local food self-governance ordinances, from all state licensure and inspection requirements with respect to the production and processing of local foods for sale directly to consumers. The pilot program is repealed in 2022. Each year the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is required to submit a report on the pilot program to the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over agricultural matters including any assessment of or comments about the pilot program provided by interested persons, including producers, processors and consumers participating in the pilot program. Upon receipt of the report, the committee may report out a bill relating to the pilot program.


Joel Salatin’s Great Maine Adventure in His Own Words

May 3, 2015

 

Craig Hickman, Joel Salatin and Heather Retberg at Thursday’s Hearing


 Here is what Joel Salatin wrote and shared on the Polyface Farm Facebook page about his time in Maine on Thursday April 30th, 2015, heretics all!

“Today was yet another confirmation that the tension between the orthodoxy and heresy is alive and well.
I was asked by the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund’s head litigator, Pete Kennedy, to help an effort in Maine that looks at least hopeful for food freedom. By the way, anyone and everyone who cares about food choice and direct producer-consumer options should join the FTCLDF–it’s doing more for the integrity food movement than any organization in the world.
Craig Hickman and his partner operate a small farm in Maine. Both come from professional backgrounds but find the farm both therapeutic and deeply satisfying. Their little farm was cooking right along until they got a couple of goats and began milking and making cheese. A little sign by the road letting neighbors know about their milk and cheese seemed like a good way to launch.
Within 48 hours the food police arrived and told them this was illegal. To say Craig got fired up would be an understatement. He ran and won as a delegate in the Maine legislature–becoming Representative Craig Hickman and now in his second term. A dashingly handsome, articulate man, Hickman describes himself as a Libertarian Democrat. Now how about that?
He put in a constitutional amendment that reads as follows: Right to Food. Every Individual has a natural and unalienable right to food and to acquire food for that individual’s own nourishment and sustenance by hunting, gathering, foraging, farming, fishing, or gardening or by barter, trade or purchase from sources of that individual’s own choosing, and every individual is fully responsible for the exercise of this right, which may not be infringed.
Hickman and many others in Maine are now capturing the attention of the entire country as they sail into freedom waters. This amendment, which must first pass a super majority in both houses and then go before the citizens of Maine in a referendum, gives standing to individuals who find government regulators standing between them and the free exercise of acquiring their food.
The hearing started promptly at 1 p.m. and went until a few minutes after 3, with about 30 people speaking in favor and two speaking against. As you can imagine, those speaking in favor were farmers wanting to sell, eaters wanting to buy, Indians wanting to extend to the white man the same food acquisition privileges (hunting) given to natives by right through treaties, and a host of articulate liberty-loving attorneys and local food advocates.
My comments, limited to 3 minutes, are as follows:
Maine is rich in resources, but imports 90 percent of its food and suffers the highest food insecurity rate (15 percent) of any New England state. Seeing these numbers, you’d think it was a desert, but Maine is far from a desert.

Now to the orthodoxy vs. heresy. The two dissenters, true to form, were the Maine Farm Bureau Federation and the director of the Maine Department of Agriculture. Sometimes predictability is almost humorous.
The farm bureau gentleman began his remarks by saying he was an ordained minister and volunteered at the food bank and believed that this food freedom proposal would not help the hungry. In fact, he advocated more giving through the food bank as the best alternative to help the hungry.

Farm bureau is labeled geopolitically as conservative, but there is nothing conservative about this testimony. It plays right into the hands of the disempowering forces of programs rather than self-help responsible liberty. The fact is that more food choice, more food producers, more community-imbedded food options increase food production, food availability, food price competition, and ultimately benefit everyone, including the hungry.  To assume that the most efficacious way to help the hungry is with more food banks places the farm bureau squarely in the camp of the most helpless victim-oriented top-down policies bandied about by the liberals. The farm bureau is so beholden to the industrial food system that it feels compelled to obfuscate its own consistency whenever food liberty rears its ugly head.
The other detractor, of course, was the director of the Maine department of agriculture. The galley gasped as he asserted that anybody has access to all the food they want. During questions following my comments, I pointed out that the supermarket, for all its apparent choice, actually has an extremely narrow type of product. You won’t  find Aunt Hilda’s home made quiche there; you won’t find raw milk there; you won’t find non-chlorinated chicken dressed in the back yard. The insurance, slotting fees, and Good Agricultural Practice certifications required to get on a supermarket shelf preclude the good stuff.  
It reminds me of the condescension that an Australian farmer told me last week when her sausages were condemned by Primesafe (the Australian counterpart of the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service). She quoted the inspector as saying “I don’t understand your kind of people.” In fact, it brought me back to about 5 years ago when I did a presentation to a roomful of about 100 food inspectors in Northern California, asking them if anyone had ever heard of the book OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA–not a single hand went up. Then I asked if anyone had ever heard of the film FOOD INC.–not a single hand went up.  Indeed, the orthodoxy of the industrial food system has no clue what our food freedom tribe thinks and can’t imagine why we can’t be satisfied with pasteurized milk, Hot Pockets, and microwavable frozen dinners. They see this as choice; we see it as poison.
The good director went on to say that he was concerned about the consequences this constitutional amendment would have on the food safety system. For a man of his stature to be blind to the consequences of food safety with the current bureaucratic top-down regulatory system is either naive or deliberately misleading.  I pointed out during questioning that our side did not guarantee perfection. Nobody can guarantee perfection.
The question is not whether somebody will get sick or if we can design a fail-proof system. The question is whether or not we can abide people who want to exercise their personal food choice for the fuel of their internal bacterial community to make that choice. If not, why not. If so, pass the amendment and let’s go.  His other concern was that it might impair commercial farming. Obviously he thinks Polyface is not a commercial farm. This condescending spirit certainly reveals a holier-than-though attitude and an aggressive prejudice against drug-free compost-based people-centric direct marketing farms.
It was a distinct honor and privilege to be surrounded by such positive food liberty advocates. I wanted to put them all in my briefcase and bring them to Virginia. If they can get this passed, it will be a huge shot across the bow of the entrenched orthodoxy that the heretics have not only survived the inquisition, but have thrived and the reformation is on its way. It’s time.”


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