Posts Tagged ‘maine’

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.

Advertisements

Vignettes from the work of rebuilding the Local Food Infrastructure in Maine.

This post is somewhat longer than my usual.   It is an essay I’ve been working on for awhile now.  I think of it as my TED talk should I ever be invited to deliver one.   Let me know what you think.

 

My grandpuppy visiting the farm.

 I grew up in a small town in Maine in the 1960’s. My mother was a farm girl from a nearby dairy farming community. As a teenager she had worked at the local canning factory in her hometown. Nearly every town with a stream that could produce hydropower had a canning factory.  

My mother was a great believer in good food. This is how I ate as a child. Every year my parents put a side of beef in the freezer. A grass-fed steer from a local dairy farm. Slaughtered at the local food locker. Best beef I ever ate. And we ate it frequently because as a single income family with four growing children a large percentage of the family budget was spent on food. By buying their beef this way my parents could feed us ribeye for the same price as hamburger. We had a milkman who delivered. An egg lady who delivered. My mom said she bought from her because she had a husband who wouldn’t work and she needed the money to feed her own kids. My godfather got us hand-churned butter from a woman in her 90’s who lived in his town. It was bright yellow and salty, creamy, melty delicious. We had a huge garden every year and my mother canned and froze a lot of fresh veggies during the summer, made pickles, canned applesauce and apple butter from our neighbors trees. They were summer folks and long gone by the time the apples on their ancient tree were ready to harvest. We ate very well in my childhood home.

The country around us, along with being dairy country, was also the last bastion of the poultry industry in Maine. Every year in the shire-town of our county they held the week long Broiler Festival. A celebration of the farmers growing and the plants processing broiler chickens in our county. As a 5 year old I was the “gift girl” at the Miss Broiler Pageant. I met my first politician there. John Reid the Governor of Maine at the time. 20 years later I was the last occupational health nurse and safety officer at the last poultry processing plant in Maine. The industry was moving south where it was warmer and the labor was cheaper. My county’s economy was devastated.

At approximately the same time the poultry industry was dying in Maine a couple called the Nearings, Helen and Scott, I’m sure you’ve heard of them, moved to a small farm out on a peninsula on the coast and started homesteading. Scott wrote a book called “Living the Good Life” which became a run away hit with the 60’s generation and lead a lot of folks to move back to the land. These back-to-the-landers started farming and homesteading using organic methods. Soon they asking the cooperative extension agents to help them improve their methods and yields. One of these agents, Charlie Gould, happens to be the father of a friend of mine. He told me years later that he had all these “dirty hippies” asking him about organic methods so he decided he needed to learn how the organic system worked. From this humble beginning, after a few meetings lead by Charlie and attended by Scott, Helen, Eliot Coleman and many others sprang the beginnings of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association or MOFGA. And the rest, as they say, is history. Having the largest and oldest organic farming association in our state leads to many advantages. We are the only state in the country where the average age of farmers is falling thanks to the apprenticeship and journey person programs that MOFGA runs. We also have the highest per capita number of female farm owners. I don’t know what to attribute that to except that the millennials are pretty gender neutral in most things this aspect included.

In the meanwhile the chicken barns were empty and deteriorating. But we have found some uses for them. One became the home for Fedco Seeds. A worker owned seed, tree, perennials, bulbs and farm supply company that has been expanding at a reasonable rate for 30 years now. A local company serving the seed, equipment and input needs of the revitalized farming culture in Maine. Other empty chicken barns, and there were lots of them, became warehouses or self storage units. One became an antiques mall and yet another became the largest used bookstore in the state.

So the work continued and the farms came back to life and the farmers grew more and more food that they needed to get to market. The holes in the local food infrastructure began to show. Since the 1960’s the local food locker had closed. There are currently only three USDA slaughter facilities in the state. Some farmers drive as much as three hours one way to take their stock to be slaughtered in a way that the government will then allow them to sell wholesale or retail in the public marketplace. The local canning plant closed int he 1950’s and as I said the poultry processing plant was gone. So we had a gap, we had farmers who wanted to grow the food and eaters who wanted to eat it but we needed to rebuild the processing and distribution system. We needed more than just CSAs and Farmers Markets.

We have over the last 10 to 20 years been slowly rebuilding the local food infrastructure. A thing that is made less difficult by the fact that we are only a generation, and sometimes less, away from a rural infrastructure that functioned quite well. My organization , Food for Maine’s Future/Local Food RULES, is one of the smaller non-profits guiding and aiding this rebuilding. Along with MOFGA, Maine Farmland Trust and a few others we are trying to keep open land in farming and farmers on the land. Some of the other components that have had to be reinvented are distribution. We are fortunate to have Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative another worker cooperative that runs several truck routes around the state picking up produce from the farms and distributing it to wholesalers and retailers around the state and New England. Food hubs are opening up around the state where farmers can aggregate their crops and sell to wholesale and retail markets. The Maine Federation of Farmers Markets is a thriving organization that supports markets for farmers around the state who wish to sell directly to customers.   

Other pieces of the puzzle include the access to infrastructure needed to create value added products. Or, on the other hand, protection from onerous regulatory burdens that prohibit the processing of food on the farm for direct customer sales. The granges around the state are going a great job with the first piece. Several, formerly underutilized, Grange Halls around the state have installed licensed kitchens and rent them out on an hourly basis to local folks who want to make a product that they can sell at retail outlets. My friend Julie just recently gushed to me about how much easier it is to make her Happy Honey in the Halcyon Grange kitchen then it was to try to do it in her own cramped home kitchen. In other communities decommissioned schools are being brought back to life as community centers and the kitchens are being licensed and rented out to local folks for food production.

In 2006 we were having one of our Mud-season Dinners and I stood with a group of young farmers bemoaning the recently introduced animal identification law. A set of USDA regulations that was forcing all farmers large and small to keep a paper trail for every animal they ever owned and to spend money tagging or tattooing those animals. One small goat farmer plaintively asked “What are we going to do?” and my friend Tim Libby, a fine small farmer who feeds thousands of disadvantaged folks with his Veggies for All program, turned to her and said “We’re going to keep doing what we we’re doing….it’s just going to be illegal.” And that is the crux of the matter. Small farmers have been skirting the onerous regulations for years. But the more burdensome the regulations get the more likely these farmers are going to be forced to become outlaws. From this frustration along with the frustration of trying to get those regulations changed at the state level came the movement to pass Local Food Sovereignty Ordinances in municipalities around the state.

And speaking of retail outlets the locavore movement is alive and well in Maine. Over the last two years we have doubled the number of brick and mortar food co-ops in the state. These small local businesses are especially supportive of local farmers and producers. In fact they are so successful that the big chain stores in the state are trying to imitate them by having pictures of in state farmers up around their produce aisles. A nice niche market for the slightly bigger producers.

I have already spoken about transportation but I have to tell you about one of the coolest new transportation solutions in my coastal state. MaineSails a project of the Greenhorns, which is a national organization of young farmers, recently (August 2015) had its maiden voyage carrying farm produce with fairly stable shelf life from Portland Maine to Boston Massachusetts. The produce was then transported via bike to the Public Market in Boston. This project was meant to emphasis the need to think outside the box about solutions in the food system with lower carbon footprints.

In 2006 the Brookings Institute published a study about Maine’s economic future. One of the main findings in the study was that what Maine had that was unique and marketable was its pride of place and open lands. They suggested that one way to keep those fields open was to keep it in farming. 

The Maine Grain Alliance is working to restore Maine’s preeminence as the bread basket of the northeast. They have opened a mill in Skowhegan and are not only grinding grain for human consumption but have filled the need of organic livestock farmers for organic feed grains. Each year in August they sponsor the Maine Kneading Conference a multi day event that brings together bakers and grain growers from all over the state and the country.

For years during the back to the land movement many of the small farmers and homesteaders I knew were growing a small crop of marijuana as their cash crop. Recently Maine legalized the medicinal use of marijuana. Becoming “care providers” under this new law has become a nice little cottage industry for many folks around the state. On the November 2016 ballot in Maine there will be a referendum seeking to legalize recreational use of marijuana. There had been two completing referendums. One sponsored and supported by the big tobacco and other firms seeking to regulate marijuana like tobacco, gambling and alcohol and restrict the number of growers in the state to a few deep pocketed folks from away. The other seeking to keep marijuana cultivation int he hands of the small farmer and allow them to continue to use a small marijuana patch as their cash crop for the year. The small farmers won this one. Big tobacco folded their tents and slunked away in the night when they realized they could not get the required number of signatures. The people of Maine were on to them and the small farmer version of the bill won the day and will be on the ballot. 

And now it comes full circle. Last year my daughter-in-law asked me to teach her to can tomatoes and make pickles. This year, for the first time she and my son had their own big garden. The other night when I called they were making gravy fries for dinner out of the all blue potatoes from their garden. Last fall, it was a very good apple year, we had a cider pressing party at my place. We pressed over 50 gallons of cider and set it to ferment so that we would have our own hard cider for the winter. We gathered the community, added value to the local apple crop, prepared for the winter, and nurtured the local food traditions. Doing the work, legal or not, to feed our family, friends and neighbors.

Is a Whisper Better than a Shout?

 

 So I went down to the legislature yesterday and had one of my more interesting days at our state capitol.    I was there to testify on LD 785 more about that later.   In fact that rather good hearing was just the jam in this sandwich of a day in Augusta.  I started the day headed for the Clerk of the House’s office to make sure there were no loose ends after our Rally of Unity in the Hall of Flags on Monday.   As I walked up the marble stairs the volume of chatter from the Hall of Flags was deafening.   It was the Maine State Realtor’s Association lobby day.   The Hall  was packed and they were serving what looked like a very nice lunch.  Oh, what money can buy.  I wondered through the crowd looking for familiar faces and just sizing up the event.   Impressive scene and I’m sure the legislators were impressed.

I continued up the stairs and ran into my friend Hillary Lister who was there to lobby on some medicinal marijuana bills.   Including one that was being heard on the fourth floor in the plethora of bills having hearings that day around gun owner rights.   I looked up into the rotunda and saw it ringed with stern looking men who were there to voice what they see as their second amendments rights.  Later in the day, after I had attended the public hearing on 785, I wondered back over to the Statehouse and spoke with some friends who were also there for the marijuana bills.    I was trying to find out where the gun bills were being heard.   I was told that they were being heard throughout the Statehouse because the crowd was so beyond capacity that they were being piped into the Hall of Flags (the realtors were long gone) and the visitor’s center.  Also that no one was being allowed into the hearing room unless you were on the testimony list and there were armed guards stationed outside the door.   This I had to see.   Making my way to the fourth floor I encountered the same, or very similar, group of grim faced men standing outside the hearing room and, sure enough, armed guards at the door.   A big sign read “If you are not on the list to testify please go listen in the visitor’s center”  or words to that effect.   At the visitor’s center it was SRO with the grim faced men but a couple of babies and young women thrown in for variety.    Another impressive scene.   And again, I am sure the legislators were impressed.  But this time because of the passion of these folks for their guns.
Money and passion.   These are the two things that drive legislation.   And it got me thinking about the machinations of government.   Especially as those machinations chew up and spit out the little guy.    The bill I was there to testify about was, at its core, about transparency in government.    Here is my testimony:
“Senator Whittemore, Representative Martin, distinguished members of the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government.   My name is Betsy Garrold, I live in Knox, Maine and represent The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, a national organization that seeks to protect the constitutional right of the nation’s family farms and artisan food producers to provide processed and unprocessed farm foods directly to consumers through any legal means, protect the constitutional right of consumers to obtain unprocessed and processed foods directly from family farms and artisan food producers and protect the nation’s family farms and artisan food producers from harassment by federal, state, and local government interference with food production and/or food processing.

I come here today to speak in favor of LD 785 An Act To Provide for Legislative Review of Federally Mandated Major Substantive Rules under the Maine Administrative Procedure Act.  The constitution of the State of Maine asserts in Article One, Section Two that “all power is inherent in the people; all free governments are founded in their authority and instituted for their benefit; they have therefore an unalienable and indefeasible right to institute government, and to alter, reform, or totally change the same, when their safety and happiness require it.”
In order for the people of Maine to exercise their rights they must have free and open access to the workings of the government.   As it stands now we do have access to the legislative branch and can seek to have enacted those laws that make sense and follow what is actually happening out in the real world.   However, once those laws have been passed they are gobbled up by the various state departments and once chewed over and digested by those departments, out of sight of public scrutiny, the rules are regurgitated onto the public with no oversight by the legislators that passed the law or by the citizens.   The rules then descend on the citizens and attempt to dictate their lives without any input from the citizenry into what those rules contain.  
This is wrong.   Democracy is meant to be transparent.   As they say sunlight is the best disinfectant.   What we are asking for here is to have a little light shed into the dark recesses of the rule-making process in the form of public legislative hearings.   No mandates should be passed without the scrutiny of those affected by those rules, regulations and laws.
Please send this bill to the floor with a unanimous ought to pass vote and protect the rights of the citizens of Maine to know what their government is doing.
Thank you for your time.”
So sunlight and citizen participation.   That is what we in our quiet little corner of the legislature were asking for yesterday.   While the realtors made their presence felt with cash and the gun owners made theirs felt with overwhelming numbers we were working in the background to make sure that it is not all for show.   That the flashy lunches and huge crowds that sway the legislative machine are not all for naught.   When the people of Maine speak they can be heard.   But the bureaucrats working in the background are the real center of power and they need to be reined in.   So with no crowd and no fancy lunch we made our case for better oversight.   We can only hope that our whisper is better than a shout.

Update:  LD 785 got voted out of the State and Local Government committee unanimously Ought Not To Pass.  The feeling among the supporters of this bill was that the committee just did not understand the issue or how the bill would correct it.   We will try again next legislature.  Maybe next time we will have to speak a little louder.

Update #2:  We went back to the legislature this session (2017) and managed to get the same bill all the way to the governor’s desk.  No surprise he vetoed it and unfortunately we did not have the votes to override his veto but that is not bad progress from one legislature to the next.   Stay tuned.   We will be bringing this bill or something very like it back in the 129th!

Why I Changed Parties (briefly)

A couple of weeks ago I went to my town office and un-enrolled as a Green Independent here in Maine.   I did it so that I could enroll (briefly) in the Democratic Party and vote for Troy Jackson in the primary on June 10th.  This is so out of character for me that the ladies at the town office asked me twice if I was sure that I wanted to do this.   I am a state party chair emeritus of the Maine Green Independent Party and this just seemed to them to be a strange move on my part.   But I really want to vote for Troy.

I have stood by and watched the Democratic Party in this state shoot itself in the foot again and again over the years.   Remember their lack of support for Jean Hay Bright  (the party recruited someone to run against her in the primary for chrissake) when she ran against an ailing Olympia Snowe?   And Libby Mitchell’s “campaign” for Governor???? Enough said.   I want to vote for Troy because he is a candidate that represents what I want to see in an elected official: someone with a backbone.

I just got done watching the debate between Troy and his opponent on MPBN where his opponent claimed she was supportive of the GMO labeling bill.   And I call Bullshit.  She may have voted for it but if that is all it takes for her to claim supportiveness then the bar is pretty damn low.   And if any of you believe that Troy is the “big money” candidate in this race then you obviously don’t watch network TV.  Wall to wall ads for Troy’s opponent on the 6 o’clock local news.

Anyhow, watch this video of his speech at the Dem’s convention recently.  Ethan Strimling (an institutional Democrat if there ever was one) called it “the best speech I have ever heard at a Maine Democratic convention.” If you don’t tear up watching this then you are the one with a black heart!

 

Oh, I’ll be changing back to the party of my heart (the Greens) as soon as I can.   90 days I think it is.  But this will be worth it, especially if we get Troy to Congress!  So watch this 17 minute video, it will be time well spent.

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)

Winding Down

 

I will be temporarily winding down this blog over the next few days.  I will be taking a month-long hiatus while I take part in the National Novel Writing Month challenge during November. More on that later.

 

But over the next few days I will post a few links to keep you entertained for a bit.  The first one today is the trailer of a great movie I saw last week in Belfast at the Colonial Theater.  Betting the Farm is a documentary made by Cecily Pingree and Jason Mann about the two-year struggle of a group of Maine organic milk farmers to start-up, run and make a success of Maine’s Own Organic Milk (MOO Milk).  It is a very moving film and is getting showings all over the state and the country.  See it if you can.