Posts Tagged ‘Maine State Legislature’

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.

Right to Food Constitutional Amendment

  
Submission for February 4, 2016 Work Session Hendrik D. Gideonse, 
LD 783 calls for a constitutional amendment addressing the right of Maine citizens to food. My support remains the same, however, the evolving context has only underscored the need for adoption. Last year I analyzed the existing provisions of Maine’s Declaration of Rights in the light of the social, political, and economic context of the times when they were written. The original drafters were more concerned about the rights of protection against arbitrary authority than they were in fully articulating all the elements requisite to the pursuit of life and liberty. Everywhere they were surrounded by nature – farms, fish, timber, and so on. It just never occurred to them that access to food as part of the natural rights of humanity needed explicit expression in our constitution, not only to protect the nourished, but the farms as well.

Adding language articulating the right to food is a needed extension of natural rights provisions already in the Declaration. Two factors have changed. The dramatically changed circumstance for contemporary food production has removed it far from our daily consciousness. Its former neighborly connection has been essentially replaced by a substantially removed, complex, and not-fully-accountable-to-the- consumer corporate overlay. Additionally, many families and individuals have become increasingly knowledgeable about where their food is coming from and what kind of food the current system generates, and their commitment to access nutrient-dense food from farms that are ecologically sound has deepened. Increasingly numbers of us are seeking real food that isn’t chemically or GMO laden from farms where we can see, touch, and smell the gardens where it is grown.
Therefore, the rights of citizens respecting food now require specific attention. At the same time that nutritional and environmental consciousness about food and farming is growing, it is also true that too many families have little idea how their food is grown or produced or should be. They don’t know where it comes from, how it is processed, how it is protected (or not!), and why and, furthermore, what role our own senses and understandings and trust play in making our food choices. No longer coming from farmer neighbors, food comes under the aegis of huge corporations from thousands of miles away, regulated by agencies seeking to deny our right or authority to the fundamental choices governing what we take into our bodies for nourishment. And despite all these changes, Maine now finds itself in the unenviable position of being the New England state with the highest incidence of food insecurity.

We are now much more acutely aware of the extent to which the position of corporations relative to individuals and even government continues to alter. Critical arguments, for example, against the soon-to-be-voted-on proposed TPP trade agreement have to do with the inexorable drift toward corporate control of everything. Indeed, NAFTA and the TPP explicitly turn over to extra-governmental tribunals corporate claims over profits they believe denied them by governmental actions in defense of people and the environment. 

The articulation of the basic right to food is an important protection. It provides grounding for the development of sound agricultural and public policy. It would provide a means of protection when either governmental or corporate action should interfere with the right to food in individual cases. Passing this bill will provide constitutional support for increasing our attention to food and farming. It will foster economic growth and development by a much-needed restoration of smaller scale local farming. That will be good for employment and as a hedge against both the causes and consequences of climate destabilization. Natural rights to life and liberty are already in the very first section of Maine’s Constitutional Declaration, but addressing directly the right to food embraces our individual choices through the most fundamental kind of law. It will safeguard us against the actions of misguided corporations and government agencies which seek to keep us ill-informed about what we’re eating when they’re not actually staking untenable jurisdictional claim over our own bodily health.

Down in the Papaya Republic

  We have been working very, very hard in the Maine State Legislature this session to get some good, local-food-rights bills passed.   Several have been proposed and finally on Tuesday we had some good news.  Three of those bills were voted out of committee Ought to Pass.   The following is a transcript of the testimony I presented about these bills and the Right to Food constitutional amendment that had been proposed.   It is a personal story that seemed to touch many in the audience.   I fed the papaya and the cheese puffs to the committee afterwards.

“Good afternoon Senator Edgecomb, Representative Hickman and distinguished members of the committee.   As you all know by now I am Betsy Garrold from Knox and I represent Food for Maine’s Future, Local Food Rules and The Farm-to-Consumer Defense Fund.  I come here today to speak in favor of this afternoon’s collection of local food bills.

Today I am going to tell you a story.   I brought props.   In the early 1990’s I was a Lieutenant in the United States Public Health Service stationed in a place we fondly called the Papaya Republic.   The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a small nation in the middle of the Pacific.   A tropical paradise filled with coconut, banana, papaya, breadfruit, and pandanus trees; a lagoon teaming with fish; small family gardens scattered here and there around the island.

While I was there I helped the World Health Organization conduct a childhood nutrition survey that revealed that thirty percent of our children were stunted and underweight.    In other words chronically malnourished.   This was not a huge surprise but it lent us weight as we worked to start several programs to combat that blight.   I ran kitchen garden programs with the horticulture students at the college at which I taught.    I wrote a white paper for the Nitijela (the local legislature) on the need to foster breastfeeding.   This lead to National Breastfeeding Week with educational programs and celebrations across the islands.   I filmed, with the Peace Corp volunteers on the island, an educational video about breastfeeding and child-spacing.   But my favorite programs was childhood nutrition education in the elementary schools around the nation.

I would go into elementary classrooms and hold up two things.   In one hand a papaya.  Fresh whole, local food.   Not shipped in on barges.   Growing in the sunshine and ocean breezes.   In the other hand I would hold up a shiny package of cheese puffs.   Definitely not healthy and having been shipped in from the mainland United States on a huge container ship.  I would say to the children,  “Which is healthier for you?   Which is better food?”  

Invariably they would choose the cheese puffs.   But their reasoning was based on different causes then you might think.   They thought that anything that came in a shiny package from the store, and had come over the ocean from the United States must be better for you.    Must be nutritious and healthy.   Shiny packages can never steer you wrong, right?

This always lead to a lively discussion about whole foods versus processed foods.   Local food versus imported food.   Fruit versus cheesy puffs.   By the end of the hour when I opened both packages, cutting open the papaya and opening the bag of puffs the children usually made the right choice and went for the papaya first.

So what is my point?   I would like the committee vote for local food versus manufactured, over- proceed food.    Whole food versus junk food.    I would like the committee to vote the way the school children in the Marshall’s finally did.   Supporting our local, healthy food producers and farmers with their vote for these bills that support the work they do to feed us all.

Thank you for your time.”

Happy International Women’s Day! (and happy anniversary to The Populist Farmer)

Three years ago today I finally got up the courage to start my own blog about politics and agriculture.   And as they say…thus was born The Populist Farmer.   I meant to write every day, and the Goddess said “Ha!” but I have managed to keep this small avenue for expressing my joys, fears, frustrations, paranoia and triumphs alive through over 200 posts.    So there!

This particular post is going to be a rambling stream of consciousness set of musings on women, politics, life, the universe and everything.

Lets start with GOOGLE.   Since their little movie on their home page today is what inspired me to write this.   I have a new Chromebook which my wonderful children bought for me when my old laptop died and as much as I was reluctant to give this little machine any credit it has proved to be very useful in the activist work that I do and even in the work I am doing with two friends in developing a worker owned co-op.   So although it is evil in many regards (can’t be used without an internet hook up, won’t let you use other company’s products in many cases, no expectation of any privacy since everything you work on is “in the cloud”) it is a good tool in many ways.    We just need to remember that the interwebs and computers and smartphones and all the other ubiquitous devices with which we populate our days are just that TOOLS!!!   I use them for work and for organizing and try very hard not to have them use me.

I am having some logging done on my land.   Well, to be more specific, I have just fired the logger who was cutting trees on my land because he obviously did not understand me (or chose not to) when I said I wanted to do a light selective harvest.   Once again reinforcing to me the need to follow my instincts.   There were valid reasons not to want skidders on my land.   Now I remember them.  Unfortunately my forest suffered in the meantime.  But the reason this is pertinent today is because I really believe this guy thought I was some timid little old gray-haired woman that he could push around, lie to and rip off.    Not so.   But the perception is understandable.   He is a product of his machismo culture.   I feel badly that he is going to have such struggles in his business dealings because of his poor attitude. Or maybe not.

Which brings me to my next (and most important) point.   I have just read this great essay called Men Explain Things to Me, Facts Didn’t Get in Their Way” By Rebecca Solnit.   Here is a snippet, go read the whole essay as your celebration of International Women’s Day.   “So I opened an essay for the Nation with this interchange, in part as a shout-out to one of the more unpleasant men who have explained things to me: Dude, if you’re reading this, you’re a carbuncle on the face of humanity and an obstacle to civilization. Feel the shame.”  This essay is pithy, funny, sad, and spot on!

Finally, yesterday, I spent the day in Augusta, again.   About raw milk, again.   And we lost, again.   I mean we didn’t really lose.   But the bill that got voted out of committee is a mess.   It has just enough to make everyone unhappy (which several of the men in the room seemed to think was the goal of the day.)   Piss everyone off just a little.   But at one point the lawyer, who was trying to take this piece of sausage and turn it into something that was at least understandable, and the Senate chair, both of whom happen to be women, were trying to sort through the hash that the bill had become.   My friend Heather Retberg murmured, “thank god there are women in the room!”   And that is too true.  The women in the room, at least those not totally co-opted by the dominant masculine paradigm, were the only ones trying to reach a compromise that made sense.   Not one that just sought to make everyone equally miserable.  We were even nice to each other and not excessively condescending.   It, once again, reaffirmed my belief that the world will be a better place when women run it.