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.

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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.


Remarks on Food Sovereignty and GMOs

June 1, 2014

Last Saturday Betsy was in Monument Square in Portland  at the March Against Monsanto.   The week before that Heather was on the steps of the Maine Supreme Court at the press conference just before Dan Brown’s case was heard.   In between those two events two counties in Oregon passed bans on planting GMO crops.

Here is all those events:

March Against Monsanto

I have come here today to speak about the food sovereignty movement.   And I will do that in a moment but first I want to tell you a story and toward the end I’ll offer you a solution to the food situation in which we find ourselves.

Back in 2006 I was standing around with some friends at one of our Mud Season Dinners.   These are events meant to demonstrate that even in the dark days of February or March there is still enough, entirely local, food to feed a crowd. At that moment we were at the height of our resistance against the animal ID law.  This is the USDA regulations that say all farmers who have livestock have to register and tattoo or tag all of their animals with a number and then do all the paperwork that entails.   So if anyone gets sick from eating meat, when that animal goes into the churning cauldron that is our current food system, the Feds can trace that animal’s life and provenance from birth to slaughter.   Naturally the anarchists, non-anarchist, libertarians and plain old left wing activists, I was chatting with were none too pleased with this development.  One of them asked plaintively “What are we going to do?”   A good friend of mine, a farmer who feeds thousands of people every year, happened to be standing in the group.  He looked at her and said “We’re going to keep doing what we are doing…it’s just going to be illegal.”

And that is the essence of this movement.   It is; in the tradition of Suffrage, Civil Rights and Marriage Equality; essentially a human rights movement.    We got them out of our voting booths and bedrooms now let’s get them out of our kitchens.  We are; by eating fresh local food, sourced from farmers that we know; committing an act of civil disobedience. Like the Palestinians on the West Bank standing in front of their olive trees,  we are standing in front of our apple trees, protecting them from the encroachment of a hostile government.    They, the government bureaucrats, say they are protecting us from ourselves.   They say that we don’t know enough not to eat bad food.  They say that a farmer would sell tainted milk or meat or eggs or vegetables to his neighbors and friends.   They say that we would feed bad food to our own family and loved ones.    Well, let me tell you, the only bad food we are feeding anyone is the over-processed, GMO-ladden, vacant-of-nutrient foods that the big manufacturers shovel our way every day in the chain supermarkets.  If you are eating fresh nutrient-dense foods you are going to eat less, because your body is going to crave less.   And you are going to be healthier over all.  Twinkies just can’t do that.

This is what I call a “just walk away” moment.   My favorite kind of civil disobedience.   Just as Gandhi lead the salt march  to prove to the people of India, and to the British Empire, that they could make their own salt and did not need to remain enslaved to the English salt monopoly, so too we can grow our own food.   As Ron Finley of the South Central Garden in LA said so eloquently:  “Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do.  Plus you get strawberries.”  and my favorite quote from him: “Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”

So we in the food sovereignty movement offer you the opportunity to take back control of what you eat three times a day.   Let the big guys know that they cannot intimidate us into eating rubbish that nourishes neither our bodies nor our souls.   Anyone interested in getting a food sovereignty ordinance passed in your own town can speak to me and we’ll get you started.

We need to protect our small farms and farmers.   They are the people that feed us.  They are also, historically,  the people that brought us the populist movement which lead to so much government reform in the late 1800’s.   And currently the farmers in Nebraska are one of the major reasons we are winning the fight against the XL pipeline.   Farmers are independent, hard working, tough minded folk who see the truth more clearly than most and are not afraid to stand up for what they believe.

So stand with small farmers and farmworkers everywhere and take back your power.   Stand up in front of your apples trees or tomato plants or by the side of your local farmer and just say NO.   No to GMOs, no to heavy-handed government oversight, no to caving into the intimidation bought and paid for by the folks that make the most money selling us crap to eat.   Join the next great civil rights movement.   The right to know what is in our food and  to eat whatever we damn well please.

“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”  Wendell Berry

GMO Bans In Oregon


Yale Food Sovereignty Conference

September 9, 2013

Bob St. Peter and Heather Retberg, board members of Food for Maine’s Future will be traveling to Yale this week to speak at an academic conference on the food sovereignty issue.   Here is a synopsis of the conference and then the short version of the paper that Heather participated in writing.   Very exciting and heady stuff.

“Sponsored by the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University and

the *Journal of Peasant Studies*, and co-organized by Food First, Initiatives in

Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS) and the International Institute of Social

Studies (ISS) in The Hague, Yale Sustainable Food Project, as well as the

Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute (TNI), the conference “Food

Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue” will be held at Yale University on

September 14–15, 2013. The event will bring together leading scholars and

political activists who are advocates of and sympathetic to the idea of

food sovereignty, as well as those who are skeptical to the concept of food

sovereignty to foster a critical and productive dialogue on the issue. The

purpose of the meeting is to examine what food sovereignty might mean, how

it might be variously construed, and what policies (e.g. of land use,

commodity policy, and food subsidies) it implies. Moreover, such a dialogue

aims at exploring whether the subject of food sovereignty has an

“intellectual future” in critical agrarian studies and, if so, on what

terms.

 

Conference Paper # 40: Community Autonomy and Local Food: Seeking Food

Sovereignty in Maine, by Hilda E. Kurtz in collaboration with Heather

Retberg and Bonnie Preston*

 

In 2011, a group of food and farmer activists in Maine set off a maelstrom

of political activity in and around the food sovereignty movement when they

drafted and placed on town meeting warrants a Local Food and Community

Self-Governance Ordinance. Intended to maintain the viability of small

farms in a struggling rural economy, these ordinances exempt direct

transactions of farm food from licensure and inspection. Their goal is to

maintain control of food at the local level by asserting the right to

remain autonomous from the corporate industrial food system. Conceptually,

they draw on a populist ethos and the town meeting tradition to invite

broad democratic participation in pressing claims for food sovereignty.

This paper traces the ordinance strategy and its effects through activist

networks and into the halls of the state capitol, where the governing and

the governed have wrestled over the last two years with fundamental and

difficult issues facing food systems. Recognizing the play of multiple food

sovereignties in different settings, we suggest that this work offers

insight into possible trajectories of food sovereignty as a movement for

radical change in the food system by reasserting the right to define a

local food system and drawing a protective boundary around traditional

foodways. The concept of food sovereignty – democratic control of the food

system, and the right of all people to define their own agrifood systems

(US Social Forum 2010) – implies a re-scaling of food production and trade

regimes, away from industrial scale production for international trade to

food systems organized at local and regional scales. Beyond such a

re-scaling, however, food sovereignty discourse is ambiguous if not

ambivalent about the geographic scales at which food sovereignty can and

should be achieved. Main ordinance advocates engage with the scale problem

directly by arguing for the need for scale appropriate regulations for

small scale production for direct sale; in addition, they draw on Maine’s

tradition of Home Rule to frame perhaps the first legible spatial

expression of food sovereignty in the United States. This paper examines

the ordinance strategy and its ripple effects as a politics of scale, in

which different expressions of geographic scale shape both the form and the

content of political debate. The stakes in this struggle are high,

concerning intersections of life and livelihood, autonomy and its absence,

and bases for knowing and for evaluating risk. We view these stakes as

biopolitics, or struggle over the exercise of biopower. In the exertion of

biopower, states (and other actors) manage population health through the

use of vital statistics and other technologies. Foucault demonstrates that

as new forms of knowledge and regimes of truth made population health

knowable, biological experience shaping individual and collective life,

like dietary practices, became linked to the exercise of state power. The

paper traces how the food sovereigntists of Maine use politics of scale to

face off against biopower as exercised through corporate influence over

food and farm regulations.”


Goat Milk is not a Crime!

August 30, 2013

Please come out and show your support for young mother Alorah and her
baby Carson. Faced with a threat from DHHS that Carson could be taken
away because the family fed him a homemade goat’s milk formula from
their own goats, this family has reached out to the broader community
for support.

Help us encircle them, support them and rally around them at 11:00 am September  5th in Cascade Park, State Street, Bangor.

From the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance which aims
to protect citizens from just this sort of agency overreach:

“Section 5.2. Right to Access and Produce Food. Name of Town citizens
possess the right to produce, process, sell, purchase, and consume
local foods of their choosing.

Section 5.3. Right to Self-Governance. All citizens of Name of Town
possess the right to a form of governance which recognizes that all
power is inherent in the people, that all free governments are founded
on the people?s authority and consent.

Section 5.4. Right to Enforce. Name of Town citizens possess the right
to adopt measures which prevent the violation of the rights enumerated
in this Ordinance.”

Standing together protects us all! Hope to see you next Thursday in Bangor!

Blessings on your day!


Press Conference, Rally and Public Hearing Tomorrow in Augusta

May 6, 2013

CALLING FARMER BROWN COALITION!

PRESS CONFERENCE comes on the heels of Blue Hill farmer Dan Brown losing case against the Maine Department of Agriculture and State of Maine for unlicensed food sales.

Tuesday, May 7: Press Conference hosted by Food for Maine’s Future at 12:00pm in the State House, Welcome Center

Scheduled to speak:
Rep. Craig Hickman, Winthrop
Farmer and small business owner. Sponsor of LD1287 An Act to Deregulate Face-to-Face Transactions between the People and Small Farms and Small Food Producers.

Emma Simanton, Brooksville
Licensed dairy farmer and co-coordinator of Blue Hill’s Local Food Exchange.

Rep. Brian Jones, Freedom
Co-sponsor of LD 1287 and LD 475 An Act to Increase Food Sovereignty in Local Communities

Farmers, patrons, legislators, and representatives of Maine towns that have passed Local Food & Community Self-Governance Ordinances, TBA

Followed by public hearings in Room 214 of the Cross Bldg.:

Tuesday, May 7: Public Hearing on LD-1287 An Act to Deregulate Face-to-Face Transactions between the People and Small Farms and Small Food Producers will begin at 1pm in Cross Building, Room 214.
Bill 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.

Public Hearing on LD-1282 An Act To Help Small Farmers in Selling Raw Milk and Homemade Food Products

Bill Summary: This bill exempts from state licensing and inspection requirements homestead food operations and raw milk producers who sell small quantities of certain food products or raw milk products made or produced at the person’s residence or farm if the food products or raw milk products are sold directly from the person’s home or farm or farm stand or at a farmers’ market within the State.