Posts Tagged ‘food for maine’s future’

Food Sovereignty is Now the Law of the Land in Maine

Heather and Bonnie, among many others, at one of our events during the long struggle to reach this day!


On June 16th at 10 am in the morning, Gov. LePage signed LD 725, an Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems, it now becomes a law in the state of Maine!

I sit at my computer with tears of joy running down my face. This has been a six year struggle against the corporate food monopolies to protect and enhance the traditional food-ways in our state. The law takes effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns this session.   


 
We at Food for Maine’s Future and Local Food RULES encourage towns that may have been fence-sitting to get out and pass the Local Food and Community Self Governance Ordinance. Let us know if you are working on that or thinking about doing it, give your town officials the good news!  If you know people who might be interested in other towns, encourage them.  We are prepared to help people get it done.

The vote in the Senate was unanimous. Not so much in the House. Check out the roll call results here: <http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/rollcall.asp?ID=280063572&chamber=House&serialnumber=189&gt;  And, if you have a mind to, drop a note to the governor and thank him for signing this, oh so important, bill.

Quoting Bonnie Preston’s email. “Thank you to the sponsor, Sen. Troy Jackson for introducing it and guiding it through the process; as Minority Leader in the Senate, it was work on top of a very busy session and he gave us more time than we had expected.  Co-sponsors Rep. Michelle Dunphy, Rep. Craig Hickman, Sen. Brian Langley, Rep. John Martin, Sen. David Miramant , and Rep. Ralph Chapman also deserve thanks.  We could not have done this without Rep. Hickman, who was a knowledgeable, inspiring and persuasive leader whose own bills over the years moved the work along; Rep. Chapman, an astute legislator who gave us tremendous support and encouragement and met with us several times to teach us strategy and process and sponsored LD 835, which we still hope to see pass; and Sen. Langley, who proved to be an excellent listener as we met with him on an issue he had not been familiar with and was especially helpful in bringing the Republican legislators into the fold.  The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund paid for the lobbyists we had the last two sessions, Hillary Lister and Betsy Garrold.  (They did not get $500.00 a day (or whatever) like the corporate lobbyists!)  There were countless people in the [20] towns who passed the ordinance, doing amazing work.  And of course there were all of you, responding to our near constant pleas to write to people.  Grassroots democracy at its best!”

Below is the bill as it will be entered into the law books.

APPROVED

JUNE 16, 2017 BY GOVERNOR

CHAPTER

215 PUBLIC LAW

STATE OF MAINE
_____
IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD TWO THOUSAND AND SEVENTEEN _____

S.P. 242 – L.D. 725
An Act To Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:

Sec. 1. 7-A MRSA §101, sub-§2-B is enacted to read:

2-B. Local food system. “Local food system” means a community food system within a municipality that integrates food production, processing, consumption, direct producer-to-consumer exchanges and other traditional foodways to enhance the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health and well-being of the municipality and its residents.

Sec. 2. 7-A MRSA §201-B is enacted to read: §201-B. Local authority to regulate food systems

Pursuant to the home rule authority granted to municipalities by Title 30-A, section 3001 and by the Constitution of Maine, Article VIII, Part Second, and pursuant to section 201-A, and notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a municipal government may regulate by ordinance local food systems, and the State shall recognize such ordinances.

An ordinance adopted by a municipality pursuant to this section must apply only to food or food products that are grown, produced or processed by individuals within that municipality who sell directly to consumers.

Any food or food products grown, produced or processed in the municipality intended for wholesale or retail distribution outside of the municipality must be grown, produced or processed in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws, rules and regulations.

[With thanks to Bonnie Preston whose email I freely plagiarized to write this post. Bonnie is one of our most stalwart volunteers and has put in more hours than you can count on this issue. Especially thanks to Heather Retberg, our farmer leader, who, I swear to the Goddess, does not sleep. And to her farming and life partner Phil for sparing her to us for this fight.]

Heather and Phil Retberg at their farm, Quill’s End, in Penobscot, Maine.

We are Winning

  There is a famous quote from Gandhi that goes: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Well, I am here today to tell you good people that we are winning.

When the Maine State Legislature considers and the Agriculture committee passes several bills that reinforce the rights of farmers to sell their goods face-to-face with their patrons. We are winning.

When Joel Salatin, a hero of the food sovereignty movement, flies in from Virginia for the day to testify to our Legislators in favor of a state constitutional amendment establishing the people’s inalienable right to food. We are winning.

When 13 towns, and counting, in the state have passed the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance. Reinforcing the right of people to participate in traditional food-ways. We are winning.

When the average age of farmers in Maine continues to fall and farmers from around the country are moving to Maine because of the great work they see us doing to rebuild the local food infrastructure. We are winning.

When two of the largest employers in central Maine, Fedco and Johnny’s, are organic seed companies. We are winning.

When the number of food cooperatives in the state more than doubles in less than five years. We are winning.

When we succeed in shortening the food chain because of a four times increase in the number of farmers markets, the rapid growth of the Community Supported Agriculture movement, food hubs and wonderful distributors like Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative. We are winning.

When the FDA becomes so concerned about the local food rights movement in our state that they not only send Mr. Monsanto himself, Michael Taylor, to speak to farmers in Maine but they also open a third field office in a state of 1.3 million people. We are winning.

When national organizations like National Family Farm Coalition, The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Food and Water Watch and the Organic Consumers Association are so impressed with the progress we are making in Maine that they offer logistical and financial help to further our work. We are winning.

When the national headquarters for the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association is in our state. We are winning.

When John Oliver spends a whole segment of Last Week Tonite excoriating the way contract chicken farmers are used and abused by the big poultry processing companies like Tyson. And his New York City audience reacts with horror. We are winning.

When Neil Young records a whole album of pro-farmer, anti-Monsanto songs, “The Monsanto Years”. We are winning.

When the deal to buy Syngenta, a deal that would have further consolidated the ownership of the world’s seed-stock into Monsanto’s hands, falls through. We are winning.

We are blessed to be living in a state with a strong agricultural tradition supported by the 11,000 members of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and small, nimble non-profits like Food for Maine’s Future and Local Food Rules. A state that may well be one of the climate change winners as far as access to water and arable land goes. A state with a long, and recent, tradition of activism, self-governance, and self-sufficiency.

We are winning folks.   

Congratulations.

From the The Complete Patient: They Wonder Why People are Pissed?

More shenanigans in Michigan, notice the mention of Mark Baker (of Baker’s Green Acres)  seems they are going after his friends now.

MI FOOD SEIZURE AFTERMATH: THEY WONDER WHY PEOPLE ARE PISSED?
by:David GumpertSat, 07/19/2014 – 20:11posted in: http://thecompletepatient.com/article/2014/july/20/mi-food-seizure-aftermath-they-wonder-why-people-are-pissed
Regulation,Food Club,Raw Milk,Resistance,

Jenny Samuelson was all set to do the deal dictated by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development: Dispose of nearly $5,000 worth of raw milk, cream, butter, eggs, and cheese. Under MDARD supervision, she was to bring the 250 gallons of milk to a neighboring farm, where the farmer would use it for fertilizer. The 10 gallons of cream and 20 pounds of butter would go in a dumpster. And the 100 dozen beautiful unwashed and unrefrigerated pastured eggs (raised without soy feed) would be smashed and turned into compost.

She would also discontinue all deliveries of cream and butter to herdshare members, despite their serious unhappiness about losing access to these foods.

But then the MDARD agents canceled out on the Saturday morning arrangements whereby they would observe the disposal of the food. They then said they would show up Monday morning. So she waits, and ponders her options.

Samuelson is pretty upset, as you might expect. She was trying to be an obedient citizen so she could have unfettered access to her refrigerated delivery truck and resume deliveries of raw milk. She had made the hard decision to go against what she feels is right and just, because she didn’t want to risk any further interruption in deliveries for the more than 600 families around Michigan that depend on her food.

She is still smarting from last Tuesday’s raid on her delivery truck in Washington Township, which saw agents from MDARD swarm aboard the delivery truck while it was stopped in a private parking lot, with her brother as driver. She thinks they had been following her and the truck for a number of day beforehand, and picked last Tuesday morning to do the raid instead of when she was driving, because they knew her brother likely wouldn’t know to demand a search warrant, and the presence of the local sheriff or police before being allowed (or possibly not being allowed) to take people’s food.

They told her brother it would take an hour to look through the Co-Op’s inventory—instead it took six-and-a-half hours.

Later, the MDARD told her she was prohibited from giving the food to a farmer as feed for his pigs, since she didn’t have a feed license.

Perhaps most significant, she doesn’t feel they had the right to prevent the food from being delivered in the first place. “They didn’t seize my products,” she says. “They seized the consumers’ products.”

Samuelson has been doing this drill for more than six years–during which time her co-op has grown from 20 members to more than 600– and knows the rules well. She says the cream and butter the MDARD was supposedly targeting were produced separately by the farmer from milk the members obtained as herdshare members, under contract to them individually. She also faults the special policy group that agreed with the MDARD last year in its policy statement that sanctioned herdshares for raw milk, but disallowed other raw dairy products. “I wasn’t allowed to have a voice in that,” despite her requests.

She wanted to feed the condemned food to Mark Baker’s pigs, or some other pigs, but state ag reps had told her she couldn’t feed the food to farm animals because she didn’t have a feed permit, and insisted the food be destroyed with MDARD agents watching.

Baker is the Michigan farmer who continued raising pigs the state considered wild, and he got the state to agree that he could continue raising the pigs after he sued the the Department of Natural Resources. He had a planned “Constitution Hall” program on slate for Sunday, at which Richard Mack, the former Arizona sheriff, will be discussing how the U.S. has veered from upholding its Constitution. Baker will be talking about his plans to run for Missaukee County sheriff. And there will be a pig roast for the many attendees expected.

Samuelson is going to have some very unhappy members based on her decision to refrain from delivering the raw cream and butter. “They are very pissed,” she says.

She is encouraging them to sue the state much like Mark Baker did. In the meantime, she is encouraging them to flood the MDARD with calls. Here are people she urges her members and sympathizers to contact:

Kevin Besey, director of the Food and Dairy Division, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (phone 517-582-1156 or e-mail beseyk@michigan.gov)

Tim Slawinski, Compliance Manager, Food and Dairy Division (phone 517-420-5364 or e-mail slawinskit@michigan.gov)

In a letter to her members Saturday, she said: “The only way we can get cream and butter back is to WIN this war! You the people can do it!”

(This post was revised on Sunday, July 20, to update the situation.)

Marching Against Monsanto, Again.

So I spoke at the March Against Monsanto today.  Thank you to Whitley and the crew for putting this together.  I arrived without my prepared remarks and had to off-the-cuff it.  It was okay but I wanted to share my beautiful, eloquent speech that noone got to hear today.

<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 who feed us.  They are also, historically,  the people who 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>

And Now Some Words of Wisdom and a Call to Action

I already (permanently) link to Civil Eats on this blog but just in case you never click that link you should click this one.   It is a piece written by my friend, mentor, partner in activism Bob St. Peter.   This Land is Our Land?   Here’s a quote:  “The American way of land has been this: conquest, enclosure, inheritance, foreclosure, and sale to the highest bidder. And that trend is likely only to get worse. For example, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, at the bleeding edge of free-market thinking, has proposed that any corporation anywhere in the world be able to buy as much farm land in his state as it wants. At the moment, there are at least a few restrictions on the kinds of international investors allowed to dabble in Wisconsin farmland, with a 640-acre limit on purchases for firms designated foreign.”

Read all the way to the end.   Bob asks you to pull up a chair and enter the discussion about how we can keep land in the hands of those who will farm it.

At other places in the article it speaks about young people who do not come from a farming background who want to “get their hands dirty” and get back to the land as their parents and grandparents did, however briefly, in the 60’s.    Which brought to mind the newest edition of my own alumni magazine which was it’s “Thirty under 30” issue.  In this publicity rag from a school known for its schools of medicine, engineering and business there were TWO alums on the list who were doing work in the area of local food.   One was labeled a “Local Food Champion” and the other was someone who works for Slow Food in NYC.   Not bad odds.  Maybe, just maybe, the issues we care so much about are becoming mainstream.   As long as the interest is sincere and not just a co-opting of the “right” words then this is a good thing.

Good News, Good News, Good News, and then Bad News

GW and his daughter testifying at the Agriculture Committee.

GW and his daughter testifying at the Agriculture Committee.

Hurrah, several local food sovereignty bills have been voted out of the Agriculture committee of the Maine Legislature as “ought to pass.”  Here are some excerpts from the Bangor Daily News article about the work sessions:

 

“The Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation voted that two key bills — LD 1282 and LD 1287 — ought to pass when they are taken up by the full Legislature.

The committee also voted “ought to pass” on several bills aimed at Maine’s poultry industry. LD 218 exempts farmers who grow and slaughter fewer than 1,000 birds annually from state inspection and licensure, as long as they sell the poultry from the farm or deliver to the consumer’s home. LD 259 would allow the owners of slaughterhouses to rent their facilities to other farmers. LD 836 establishes a legal mechanism for the operation of mobile poultry slaughtering facilities.”

 

Anti GMO rally at the State House.

Anti GMO rally at the State House.

The GMO bill is in work session today.  LD 718.  With the way the Ag committee has voted lately I am very hopeful that this bill will also get a favorable vote.

The bad news is a that the Supreme Court came out with its decision yesterday against the farmer being sued by Monsanto for planting seeds he bought, not from them but, from a local grain elevator.    Okay, okay it was not the best case to take all the way to the high court so we will have to try again.   The OSGATA/Pubpat suit is a good solid suit that we can hope will succeed when it finally makes it way to the top of the judicial pile.

 

“Although Monsanto and other agrochemical companies assert that they need the current patent system to invent better seeds, the counterargument is that splicing an already existing gene or other DNA into a plant and thereby transferring a new trait to that plant is not a novel invention. A soybean, for example, has more than 46,000 genes. Properties of these genes are the product of centuries of plant breeding and should not, many argue, become the product of a corporation. Instead, these genes should remain in the public domain.”

Here are some other links I’ve been compiling for a while:

 

http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs122/1104248386985/archive/1112571595184.html

 

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/448-farm-and-food-policy/16718-focus-monsanto-protection-act-ignites-massive-activism

 

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/448-farm-and-food-policy/16689-focus-monsanto-wrote-monsanto-protection-act

 

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/16705-monsanto-teams-up-with-congress-to-shred-the-constitution

LD 718: Labeling GMOs

Yesterday I went down to Augusta, again, to testify before the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry in favor of LD 718 “An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right to Know About Genetically Engineered Food and Seed Stock.”   Well, that was the old name of the bill.   On Monday the “and Seed Stock” was stricken from the bill because of a federal preemption on seed labeling, a fact about which I am not happy.   But be that as it may (good old sausage making) here is my testimony:

Senator Jackson, Representative Dill, distinguished members of the committee.   My name is Betsy Garrold and I am here today testifying on behalf of Food for Maine’s Future in support of LD 718. Food for Maine’s Future is a member-based organization of advocates and activists for small farmers, farm workers, and their patrons who are standing together against corporate monopolies. Just as the Grange set out to do when it began over a hundred and forty years ago, Food for Maine’s Future is helping Maine communities protect and preserve their interests against the interests of agribusiness corporations.

There is a “good” reason why genetically modified foods are not labeled.  Although good is not exactly the right word, it is because of the FDA’s ruling/actions that GMOs are no different than any other food. This ruling contradicts the findings of the US Patent Office, which has granted numerous patents for this “novel invention”.  Don’t you wish the Washington bureaucrats would get there stories straight?  No corporation has benefited more from this paradox than the Monsanto Company.  This monolithic company has used its patents on GMO technologies to sue US farmers and farm businesses[1].  They have worked hard to consolidate the global seed industry[2].   All in order to increase sales of Round Up and other chemicals for which these GMO seeds are specifically designed[3].

Last November, the Friday before Thanksgiving, in one of their infamous Friday afternoon news dumps, the US Department of Justice announced it had closed its two-year anti-trust investigation into Monsanto’s seed business.  No charges were brought in this case. There was no press release. No public records are available of the investigation or of the findings.

Monsanto controls or has a financial interest in 80% of the corn and 93% of soybeans produced in this country.  They sell the hundreds of millions of pounds of herbicides used on these crops. For millions and millions of people in this country these foods are the basis of their diet.  They depend on these staple foods for survival. That, by definition, makes this monopoly an anti-trust violation.

This committee will hear many reasons today why Mainer’s deserve the right to know what is in their food, how it is grown and processed.  All are valid and worthy of support. Food for Maine’s Future asks that you also consider whether the interests of corporations such as Monsanto supercede the request of the people before you today. Who and what is government truly protecting when they exempt this novel invention from a simple label?

We would like to leave you with two documents in addition to our testimony. One is a list of high-level political appointees with ties to Monsanto. The second is a chart showing Monsanto’s control over the seed industry and profits from its chemical sales since 1996. Both have citations and additional references.

And one last thought.  Vandana Shiva, noted feminist, ecologist and author said, “Without seed sovereignty there is no food sovereignty.”

Thank you for your time and patience.


[1] Monsanto vs. US Farmers, 2010 Update, Center for Food Safety

[2] Global Seed Industry Concentration, 2005, ETC Group

[3] SEC investigates Monsanto’s Roundup Biz, Mother Jones, July 19, 2011

This testimony, written with enormous help from my friend and co-conspirator Bob St. Peter, was the hit of the afternoon.    I always hope, when I testify, that  the committee members will not ask any difficult questions.   In fact, I hope for no questions at all, but yesterday something in this testimony really caught the committee’s imagination.   I was kind of surprised because it was late, late in the afternoon and there were still about 40 people on the list to testify.   They were going to be there all night but they seemed to want someone to talk about the elephant in the room.   I don’t remember the exact question (I don’t mind public speaking but I do get a bit nervous) but it gave me the opportunity to say that what the real impact of this bill will be is to decrease Monsanto’s bottom line and that is why the bio-tech industry is fighting this issue so forcefully across the country.   Then my representative, Brian Jones, asked if I thought this was a political issue.   And I said that since the Supreme Court has said money=speech and since we hope the impact of this bill will be to make people “vote with their food dollars” that, yes, this is a political issue.   There was a question about setting food policy that I don’t recall now.   I will try to get a transcript of the hearings and post the really questions and my full answers.

Anyhow, more fun at the sausage factory.   MOFGA organized a presser and rally before the hearing that was VERY well attended.   There were easily 150 people there on a Tuesday afternoon.  It turned into quite a party.    They had to open up two overflow rooms for people to listen to the testimony.   At one point an opponent of the bill called all the proponents there a “special interest group.”   It was one of the many less than truthful pieces of testimony the opponents entered into the record during the hearing.    If 90%+ of the population in Maine is a “special interest group”  then I guess I just do not understand the meaning of the term.

Editors Note:  LD 718 passed the House of Representatives with only 4 Reps voting against it and passed in the Senate unanimously on the second vote. (June 14, 2013)