Brian Shilhavy, Editor
Health Impact News
Back in 2011 we reported the story of how one small Maine town passed a “Food Sovereignty” ordinance to allow the sale of locally produced food without interference of state or federal regulators. The town was Sedgwick, Maine, and you can read the story here: “Food Sovereignty” law passed in small Maine town to allow sale of locally produced food without interference of regulators.
Soon other towns followed, and this month (March 2013), Brooksville, Maine, became the ninth town to pass a similar law. The residents of Brooksville voted 112-64 to approve the “Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance,” which states that producers or processors of local foods are “exempt from licensure and inspection,” so long as the food is sold directly by the producer to a consumer. The ordinance also makes it “unlawful for any law or regulation adopted by the state or federal government to interfere with the rights organized by this ordinance.”
The State of Maine does not think very highly of these local ordinances, and believes that state regulations for licensing and oversight trump any local ordinances.
The first test case to all of these “Food Sovereignty” laws came when the State of Maine sued farmer Dan Brown of Blue Hill, Maine. The charges stemmed from his selling food without licenses, in his case milk, assorted dairy products, like ice cream and cheese, and processed items like pickles and jams. He was also charged with failure to label his alleged illegal milk “Not Pasteurized.” Oh, and Dan Brown has exactly ONE cow. Yes, he was sued for the sale of milk from a single cow to a handful of people. You can read the story here: Local Food Sovereignty Laws in Maine Come to a Test with Farmer Brown
This case is still pending at the beginning of 2013, and there are rumors both sides are seeking a settlement.
The citizens of Maine are not backing down, however, as the residents of Brooksville have demonstrated. More farmers are destined to collide with State officials over what many see as over-burdensome regulations, denying people their basic freedoms to choose foods from local producers, as opposed to cheap grocery store food (being mostly processed junk food) often imported from hundreds or thousands of miles away. It would seem that other cases like the one of farmer Dan Brown are inevitable.
There could be a solution to years of litigation, however, if the state legislature steps in to pass state-wide laws that agree with local food sovereignty ordinances. According to Bangor Daily, State Rep. Ralph Chapman, D-Brooksville, has said there are several bills being crafted that would seek to implement the local food sovereignty rules for direct-to-consumer sales at the state level. If that happened, there would no longer be a conflict between state and local rules.
Until then, everyone around the country concerned about food freedom, and the government attempt to control the nation’s food, will keep a sharp eye on what happens in Maine. So will we here at Health Impact News.