In the last year, five towns in Maine have moved to protect local commerce in a hurting economy by nullifying State and Federal regulations. As previous reported by the Maine Tenth Amendment Center regarding Sedgwick, the first town to do so, “Under the new ordinance, producers and processors are protected from licensure or inspection in sales that are sold for home consumption between them and a patron, at farmer’s market, or at a roadside stand. The ordinance specifically notes the right of the people to food freedom, as well as citing the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Maine Constitution in defending the rights of the people.” National Family Farm Coalition member and local Sedgwick farmer Bob St. Peter noted, “Rural working people have always had to do a little of this and a little of that to make ends meet. But up until the last couple generations, we didn’t need a special license or new facility each time we wanted to sell something to our neighbors. Small farmers and producers have been getting squeezed out in the name of food safety, yet it’s the industrial food that is causing food borne illness, not us.”
The push back has begun, but instead of the Federal Government leading a charge against non-compliance, it is the State Government. Maine Agricultural Commissioner Walter Whitcomb, who was appointed by Republican Governor Paul LePage, has followed through on a threat against local farmers in a struggling economy. In a letter dated April 6th, Whitcomb made it very clear that non-compliance “will be subject to enforcement, including the removal from sale of products from unlicensed sources and/or the imposition of fines.” Dan Brown of Gravelwood Farms is being sued by the State for operating without a license.
Trenton citizen Doug Wollmar, who introduced the Ordinance in his town, noted Article 1, Section 2 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.”
“The State is not following its’ own laws. Dan Brown’s ability to prosper has been impaired by the State,” Wollmar correctly notes. “Has anyone complained that Dans products made them ill? No.”
Local farmer John O’Donnell pointed out that Maine citizens have a right to purchase from local farmers, as well as noting that this is “very bad use of taxpayer money.” O’Donnell was also a driving force behind LD 1172, “An Act To Prohibit Enforcement of Federal Laws in Violation of the Constitution of the United States“, which was introduced by State Representative Mel Newendyke (R-Litchfield).
Wollmar and O’Donnell however, are not alone in defending Brown. According to the Facebook page created for him, “Residents of Blue Hill will be attending the Selectmen’s meeting on Friday, November 18 to enforce the provisions of the Ordinance. The Blue Hill residents will be instructing the Town of Blue Hill to send a letter to the Maine Department of Agriculture requesting the State withdraw the lawsuit and recognize the authority of the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance.”
With five towns passing these ordinances with strong support from farmers and consumers alike, and the Legislature passing a “Food Sovereignty Resolution”, it appeared that Maine was steering in a direction in defense of its local agricultural communities, instead of in opposition. This has not been the case however.
When LD 1172 was being debated in committee, Attorney General William Schneider submitted testimony for the hearing claiming the legislation was “unconstitutional.” This however is false, as the U.S. Constitution is clear on the issue. The Tenth Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”, and the Supremacy Clause (Article 6, Clause 2) states “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof” are supreme. This was further detailed in the Maine Tenth Amendment Center’s testimony in favor of the legislation.
Now beyond refusing to stand with Mainers in a struggling economy, they are actively oppressing them.
In a release from the Family Farm Defense Committee of Hancock County, the point is made that “Cargill and other Big Agribusiness corporations continue to recall contaminated food in the millions of pounds, causing sickness and death, and getting off scott free.” While the businesses escape justice, the local farmers are being pursued. Where are the government priorities?
Please ACT now in defense of local commerce. Maine not only depends on it, but other States do, where towns are considering the same ordinance. If this case goes through on Brown, it sets a dangerous precedent in opposition to agriculture. Please respectfully contact these government officials and urge them to withdraw the lawsuit and stand with local farmers, not against them.
Walter Whitcomb, Agricultural Commissioner, State of Maine
Governor Paul LePage
There will also be a media call from 10-11am Thursday morning, where Dan Brown will make a statement and Bob St. Peter will also discuss the campaign urging the State to withdraw the lawsuit. To join the call, dial 866-305-2467 and use the code “260454#.” Donations are also being taken to help defend Brown and stand up for Food Sovereignty; to make a contribution, visit this link.
A Facebook page has also been created to show support for Brown, as well as provide updates on the situation as it develops.
A rally and press conference will also be held in Blue Hill on Friday at noon. For more details, please visit the Facebook event page for the event.
Chris is the state chapter coordinator for the Maine Tenth Amendment Center.
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