We received this action alert from our friends at Food For Maine’s Future. We support their groundbreaking work to build a community-based food system that promotes food justice- read on to learn how you can too!
Blue Hill Maine Farmer Being Sued By State of Maine & Agricultural Commissioner Local Food & Community Self-Governance Ordinance Challenged
Dear Friends and Supporters, Since March of this year five towns in Maine have passed the Local Food & Community Self-Governance Ordinance, creating legal protections for direct food and farm sales and food shared at bake sales and community meals. From the beginning, Maine Agricultural Commissioner Walter Whitcomb has been telling our towns that State law preempts the authority of municipalities to make local laws that conflict with state and federal laws and regulations. In a letter dated April 6, 2011 that was sent to Maine towns where the Ordinance was passed, Commissioner Whitcomb stated “Department personnel are instructed to work with unlicensed food processors or manufacturers to gain their voluntary compliance with the law.” The letter goes on to say, “However, persons who fail to comply will be subject to enforcement, including the removal from sale of products from unlicensed sources and/or the imposition of fines.” Now in the case of one of our local family farmers, subject to lawsuit and injunction.
On Wednesday, November 9, Dan Brown, a family farmer in Blue Hill, Maine, was served a summons to answer three charges being filed against him by the State of Maine and Commissioner Whitcomb. The charges all stem from his selling food without licenses, in his case that’s milk, assorted dairy products like ice cream and cheese, and processed items like pickles and jams. He is also being charged with failure to label his alleged illegal milk “Not Pasteurized.” The safety or quality of Farmer Dan Brown’s food is not being questioned. What is being questioned, or rather challenged, is the right of the citizens of Blue Hill to operate in this manner. Hear Dan Brown’s story here! Read the summons here!
WE WANT DEMOCRACY IN THE FOOD SYSTEM!
When citizens of Blue Hill voted on April 4 to pass the Local Food & Community Self-Governance Ordinance the vote was nearly unanimous. The vote took place at Town Meeting, a New England tradition of direct democracy where people gather and make decisions about matters of importance to the town. In all five towns that passed the Ordinance – the others being Sedgwick, Penobscot, Trenton, and Hope – the residents of those towns voted on their own behalf, expressing their needs and desires, asserting their rights to govern this most basic human need. The State’s challenge raises the important question, Who gets to decide the rules that affect our local food system?
People are rallying behind Dan Brown and the Town of Blue Hill because We Are All Farmer Brown! If Dan loses, a chilling affect will ripple through all the Maine towns who have and are considering passing the Local Food & Community Self-Governance Ordinance. It will impede the successful growth of our small farms, our cottage food businesses, and put at risk the tradition of sharing meals at our churches, granges, potlucks, and bake sales. But most importantly, it will say to all the people around Maine, the U.S., and globe that, “No, you do not have the right to the food of your choice” and “No, you do not have democracy in the food system!” As 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, citizens in a growing number of towns around the country are taking matters into their own hands, creating rules that reflect the needs of farmers, food producers, and communities who are building healthy, resilient local food systems. Our success is your success — Our failure is your failure.
Please take a moment TODAY to contact the Maine Agricultural Commissioner and Governor Paul LePage and tell them to drop the lawsuit against Dan Brown and respect the authority of the Town of Blue Hill that was granted by the townspeople under the Local Food & Community Self-Governance Ordinance! And join us in Blue Hill this Friday, November 18 for a press conference and rally at the Town Hall beginning at noon to show your support in person! Walter Whitcomb, Agricultural Commissioner, State of Maine 207-287-3419 [email protected]
Governor Paul LePage 207-287-3531 888-577-6690 (TTY) [email protected]
MEDIA CALL Thursday, November 17 10am-11am EST 866.305.2467 code 260454# Dan Brown will make a statement and cover the counts listed in the summons. Bob St.Peter, family farmer from Sedgwick, Maine and director of Food for Maine’s Future will discuss the campaign calling on the State to withdraw the lawsuit.
Please help support the effort by making a contribution in whatever amount you can afford. Sincerely, Family Farm Defense Committee of Hancock County