The town of Starks, Maine, will hold a public hearing on a proposed Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance on Monday night, February 19, at 7 p.m. at the Town Office. The ordinance will be voted on at Town Meeting on March 10.
Just about everything you want to know about Local Food and Community Self Governance Ordinances and the Maine Food Sovereignty law
If you have an hour to listen to an excellent news program, check out this edition of Maine Calling, a current affairs show focusing on Maine issues produced by Maine Public Radio.
Maine has a new law--LD725--that allows towns to regulate local food production as they wish, without requiring state and federal rules. While the focus on the show was on what the new law means for Maine farmers and food-buyers, the conversation also touched on national and international food freedom and food sovereignty movements.
Guests include local food ordinance organizer and farmer Heather Retberg, as well as Rep. Craig Hickman, a state representative who also helps run a local bed and breakfast, and Richard King, a goat farmer who helped pass a local food ordinance in his town of Liberty.
Jessie Dowling, of the Maine Cheese Guild, calls in with some criticisms of the new law, and good information about the supports that the Maine Department of Agriculture offers to small farmers and food producers, especially cheesemakers. Even though she's not a fan of LD725, her comments underscore that as far as local food infrastructure goes, Maine has a lot to build on.
The show is a very comprehensive look at what these ordinances do and don't do, the issues of liability, and the importance that people place on good healthy food.
This July 4th, celebrate how inspired, focused, town-by-town organizing led to statewide victory.
The Alliance has long supported local food activists in Maine through the “Local Food RULES!” campaign, which works at the city or town level to pass Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinances (LFCSGOs). You can read the basic ordinance text here and here. These ordinances protect the rights of farmers and small producers to sell directly to their neighbors, preserving traditional foodways and expanding the availability of local food.
After passing 20 town-level ordinances in Maine, the campaign won an even more important victory—passage of a state-level bill guaranteeing that Maine will not interfere with town- or city-level food safety regulation. This bill, LD725, An Act To Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems, was signed into law by Gov. Paul LePage this month and will take effect at the end of the current legislative session.
Organizers thanked the Alliance for Democracy for the local food issue of Justice Rising, calling it “our most helpful organizing tool.” Read it online here, or contact the office to see about ordering printed copies. They also praised the bill’s legislative champions, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, and the countless people who passed LFCSGOs locally and wrote their legislators in its support: “Grassroots democracy at its best!"
You can read more about the bill on our blog, and in this article in the Bangor Daily News.
Good news for local food in Maine! On Friday, June 16, Gov. Paul LePage signed LD 725, an Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems. The bill will become law 90 days after adjournment, but towns can pass Local Food and Community Self Governance Ordinances (LFCSGO) now with assurance that the state will recognize their validity. Right now, some six towns are working on local LFCSGO campaigns, which defend the legality of face-to-face, farmer-to-consumer sales of meat, dairy, and prepared products. Nineteen towns have already passed the ordinance.
Local Food RULES organizers encourage anyone who's thinking about introducing the ordinance to share this good news with town officials, and to contact them with questions--they are prepared to help.
In the meantime, the Local Food RULES campaign asks Maine residents to write to the Governor and thank him for his signature, and to contact state legislators as well, to thank them for their votes. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate, and 108-35 in the House. You can find out how your representative voted here.
In a statement, organizers thanked the bill sponsor, Sen. Troy Jackson for introducing it and guiding it through the process; as Minority Leader in the Senate, noting that it was work on top of a very busy session and he gave this issue a very generous amount of time. They also recognized co-sponsors Rep. Michelle Dunphy, Rep. Craig Hickman, Sen. Brian Langley, Rep. John Martin, and Sen. David Miramant.
Organizers also thanked the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, and the countless people who passed LFCSGOs locally, or responded to "constant please to write to people. Grassroots democracy at its best!"
One ongoing Bay State bone of contention is the strength, or relative lack thereof, of Massachusetts' home rule provisions. One local activist, for instance, who insists that Massachusetts towns and cities have more power than they know, recently said that she had been unable to work with an expert on passing local bylaws to control corporate behavior because he described Massachusetts's home rule as "medieval." Another local activist notes that yeah... we have home rule if the legislature says its ok, but all that cities and towns seem to do with it is changing elected positions to appointed positions.
So if the Local Food Rules campaign moves to Massachusetts, will it thrive? A lot depends on local conditions--for farmers with good access to slaughterhouses or that are comfortable with and able to make a living under existing food inspection rules, the impetus to pass a Local Food and Community Self Governance ordinance is lessened.
But if small farmers feel pressured by too many rules designed to benefit the industrial producers at the expense of local agriculture, we could see action in Massachusetts as well as Maine. It's up to the grassroots to decide!