GOVERNOR LEPAGE VETOES JOBS BILL FOR MAINE FARMS.
Please contact your representative and senator to urge override of LePage’s Veto on LD 1254. Help keep Maine’s Food Dollars in Maine’s economy.
When are we going to invest in our state’s food production? When are we going to invest in the self-sufficiency in the state of Maine? If not now, when?
During the legislature’s first week back in session, Governor LePage was a quick draw to his veto pen. He vetoed another bill that would help solidify policy to promote the viability of Maine farms. The governor vetoed LD 1254 An Act to Increase Consumption of Maine Foods in All State Institutions put forward by Rep. Hickman of Winthrop. This bill requires state funded institutions to incrementally increase to 35% the amount of Maine grown food they purchase between now and 2035.
In response to the governor’s veto, Rep. Hickman has this to say about his bill which passed by 2/3 vote last session:
“My bill would require all state-funded institutions, not government agencies, to purchase a percentage of foodstuffs from Maine food producers. Those percentages increase incrementally over the next 20 years in order to make them achievable and fiscally responsible. By committee amendment, schools that participate in the Federal School Lunch Program are exempt. The bill is, therefore, NOT an “unfunded mandate” (on either local school districts OR state government) because if the food isn’t competitively priced and available, there is no requirement for any state institution to purchase it. It is the policy of the state to be food self-sufficient and my bill is a small step toward realizing that goal. If you believe, as I do, that we need to spend more of our taxpayer dollars on food produced by Maine people for Maine people so that we keep more of our money in the state, reduce our reliance on foods imported from who knows where, grow a more robust food economy up and down the state, and create desperately needed jobs right here in Maine, then call, write, or visit your representatives and senators today, tomorrow, and the next and urge them to vote to override this veto. Maine’s hardworking food producers — farmers, fishermen, processors and distributors, small and large — are counting on you. “
The University of Maine-Orono is one example of an institution that has shifted its purchasing power towards Maine grown food by already purchasing 30% of its food from Maine sources. Here is a model to help other Maine institutions shift their buying power.
Right now, most of our tax payer dollars that help fund institutional food buying are going to out of state corporations like Sysco and Aramark, NOT Maine farms and NOT circulating in Maine’s economy, strengthening our communities. LD 1254 amplifies an existing law that already requires institutions to keep their dollars in Maine and help promote our state’s economy; it simply goes one step further by adding some benchmarks of accountability by adding a percentage and a timeline. There is no penalty for non-compliance with this law, but the implemenation benchmarks help provide some measure of accountability to our legislators and taxpayers.
The barriers to local farms to institutional markets are significant, and this bill could help create space for small farms to become mid-size farms, mid-size farms to scale up and hire farm help; large farms to gain a market for “seconds”. Maine’s strength can be found in our primary economic engines: our farmers, fishers and forestry, the emblems of our heritage on our state’s flag. If we want more Maine jobs, we need to start with policies
that help promote the growth and strengthen our primary economy, not undercut and divert resources away from our farms and fisherfolk toward agri-food corporate giants whose dollars don’t circulate in our own economy. LD 1254 is a step toward turning policy support toward Maine farms by requiring our state-funded institutions to buy food in Maine.
One of the principles of food sovereignty is to re-organize food trade: towards state and local economies and away from multi-national, globalized food corporations. Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. Priority is placed on domestic production and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.
Please contact your senator and your representative today to urge them to over ride Governor LePage’s veto and support LD 1254. This vote could be held early this week. The voice of the big food industry speaks loud and often and LePage is listening. Raise your voice for Maine food, her farmers and our local economy. Keep Maine’s food dollars in Maine’s economy!