A growing movement over the last couple of years in Maine has just gained another member. Brooksville, by a vote of 112-64, has passed a Food Sovereignty Ordinance. The movement, which began with the Town of Sedgwick, has grown to nine with the latest addition.
The ordinance exempts “producers and processors” of local foods in town from state and federal licensure and inspection, so long as they leave the middleman out and sell their produce, baked goods, dairy and meat directly to customers.
As Brooksville joins a number of other Hancock County towns in passing an ordinance, the battle still continues on for Blue Hill farmer Dan Brown. The State of Maine went after Brown for selling raw milk. The sale was technically in violation of State laws currently in effect, but they were nullified when Blue Hill passed the same Food Sovereignty ordinance. The case still awaits a decision in Hancock County Superior Court.
Kaylene Waindle, special assistant to the Attorney General, weighed in with a predictable claim. Just as predecessor Bill Schneider believed, current Attorney General Janet Mills also believes that government supremacy is always valid.
“These ordinances are pre-empted by state law,” Waindle said, as reported by Bangor Daily News. “They do not offer protection under the law. So people who engage in a conduct that runs contrary to state law its requirements could be found in violation of the law.”
Brooksville citizens disagree.
In 2011, the Maine Tenth Amendment Center talked to Doug Wollmar for the article, “State Sues Blue Hill Farmer, Challenges Food Sovereignty Ordinance.” Wollmar helped pass the Food Sovereignty Ordinance in Trenton, Maine.
Wollmar made reference to two pieces of Maine law, a part of the Maine Constitution and a statute.
Article 1, Section 2 states: “All power is inherent in the people; all free governments are founded in their authority and instituted for their benefit, [and that] they have therefore an unalienable and indefensible right to institute government and to alter, reform, or totally change the same when their safety and happiness require it.”
Title 7, Sections 1-A and 1-B states, “The survival of the family farm is of special concern to the people of the State, and the ability of the family farm to prosper, while producing an abundance of high quality food and fiber, deserves a place of high priority in the determination of public policy.”
In discussing Brown’s challenge from the State of Maine, Wollmar stated that was not following it’s own laws.
Brooksville appears to agree with Wollmar when it joined Trenton and seven other towns.
Deborah Evans, who owns Bagaduce Farms, told Bangor Daily News in a separate article that “until this ordinance is stricken in a court of proper authority, or the citizens decide to rescind the ordinance, this stands as the law in this town.”
The Brown challenge sitting in Hancock County Superior Court could be that court of proper authority, and with the State opposing the ordinance, it could be stricken down.
The passage of the ordinance in Brooksville again renews the discussion about government regulations and local farming. Dan Brown is facing an assault on his right to prosper by the government. Evans also points out that increased regulations burden the local farmer, who then needs to invest a great deal of money to ensure compliance with regulations.
One thing is for certain however. With the successful passage of the Food Sovereignty Ordinance by Brooksville via referendum, farmers are sending a clear message and with the support of the people. Maine law clearly sides with Brown, Evans, and other farmers across Maine who are trying to make a living, as noted by Wollmar.
There are 112 citizens at least in the Town of Brooksville who trust their local farmers, believe they should be free from burdensome regulations, and have sent a clear message that government needs to take a step back. Bringing the count to nine, it would not be surprising if more Maine towns consider joining the movement by passing the ordinance.