Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This article is part of the Food Rights Network, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy. Find out more here.

Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinances, first drafted in four towns in Hancock County, Maine, are town ordinances establishing local food governance in response to increased federal regulation via the "Food Safety Modernization Act."[1] Residents who drafted the ordinances in 2010 and 2011 feared that the new law, which President Obama signed on January 4th, 2011, could shut down cottage producers of jam and pickles made from backyard garden produce and church pot lucks without these local ordinances to protect them.[2][3]

Text of the Ordinance

Full text of the ordinance template, as passed in four Maine towns, can be found here. "Section 3. Preamble and Purpose" reads as follows:

We the People of the Town of (name of town) , (name of county) County, Maine have the right to produce, process, sell, purchase and consume local foods thus promoting self-reliance, the preservation of family farms, and local food traditions. We recognize that family farms, sustainable agricultural practices, and food processing by individuals, families and non-corporate entities offers stability to our rural way of life by enhancing the economic, environmental and social wealth of our community. As such, our right to a local food system requires us to assert our inherent right to self-government. We recognize the authority to protect that right as belonging to the Town of (name of town) .
We have faith in our citizens’ ability to educate themselves and make informed decisions. We hold that federal and state regulations impede local food production and constitute a usurpation of our citizens’ right to foods of their choice. We support food that fundamentally respects human dignity and health, nourishes individuals and the community, and sustains producers, processors and the environment. We are therefore duty bound under the Constitution of the State of Maine to protect and promote unimpeded access to local foods.Local Food and Community Self-Governance
The purpose of the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance is to:
(i) Provide citizens with unimpeded access to local food;
(ii) Enhance the local economy by promoting the production and purchase of local agricultural products;
(iii) Protect access to farmers’ markets, roadside stands, farm based sales and direct producer to patron sales;
(iv) Support the economic viability of local food producers and processors;
(v) Preserve community social events where local foods are served or sold;
(vi) Preserve local knowledge and traditional foodways.[4]

Ordinance Passage in Maine

In Hancock County, Maine, where, according to food activist Barbara Clancy, all the farms are family farms, and all but one sell all of their food in-state at an average of $20,000 of product a year,[5] these farmers succeeded in passing the "Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance of 2011" in four towns: Blue Hill,[6] Penobscot,[7] Sedgwick,[8] and Trenton.[9] An ordinance was also proposed in a fifth Hancock County town, Brooksville. It failed in March 2011,[10] but eventualy passed in March 2013.[11]

The ordinance also passed in the town of Hope in Knox County,[12] and Plymouth in Penobscot County in 2011.[13] The ordinance failed in Montville, where a resolution was passed instead.[14] It then passed in Livermore and Appleton in 2012, and was voted down in Fayette.[13] In May 2013, Isle au Haut became the tenth Maine town to pass a similar ordinance.[15]

State Legislation

Two state bills that would have supported the local food ordinances were introduced in 2011, LD 366 and LD 330, both sponsored by Rep. Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle). LD 366 was a "raw milk bill [that] would have obviated licensing for the direct sale from farmer to consumer and protected small operations from overly burdensome rules recently imposed at the bureaucratic level" and was rejected by the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee on May 11. LD 330, entitled “An Act To Exempt Farm Food Products and Homemade Food Offered for Sale or for Consumption at Certain Events from Certain Licensing Requirements,” died in committee on April 7.[16]

In June, 2011, however, both the State House and the State Senate adopted the "Joint Resolution Expressing the Sentiment of the Legislature for Food Sovereignty" (HP1176) in support of the local ordinances. The state resolution declares that "the basis of human sustenance rests on the ability of all people to save seed and grow, process, consume and exchange food and farm products," and that the State legislative bodies oppose "any federal statute, law or regulation that attempts to threaten our basic human right to save seed and grow, process, consume and exchange food and farm products within the State of Maine."[17]

In 2013, Rep. Craig Hickman (D-Winthrop), an organic farmer, introduced LD 475, “An Act to Increase Food Sovereignty in Local Communities."[18] It stated in part that “nothing in state law shall be construed as pre-empting [sic] the right of local government to regulate food systems via local ordinance.” The bill did not pass out of committee, however.[19]

Challenge to the Ordinance

On November 9th, 2011, "Dan Brown, owner of Gravelwood Farm in Blue Hill, Maine, was served notice that he is being sued by the State of Maine and Walter Whitcomb, Maine Agricultural Commissioner, for selling food and milk without state licenses. Blue Hill is one of five Maine towns to have passed the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance, a local law that permits the types of sales Brown was engaged in. By filing the lawsuit, the State of Maine and Whitcomb are disregarding the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance passed nearly unanimously by the citizens of Blue Hill at their town meeting on April 4."[20]

Jeff Beyea Speaks at Rally in Support of Dan Brown

A rally and press conference took place on the steps of Town Hall in Blue Hill, Maine, on November 18th, 2011. Speakers included Farmer Dan Brown of Gravelwood Farm in Blue Hill, Farmer Heather Redburg of Quill's End Farm in Penobscot and Jeff Beyea, who was Walter Whitcomb's herdsman for over a year. Beyea said that Whitcomb had sold raw milk from his herd from his farm before becoming Agriculture Commissioner.[21]

Videos of Dan Brown's speech and Heather Redburg's speech are also available from the "Local Food Local Rules" website.

In April 2012, the organization Food for Maine's Future revealed in a press release that emails obtained through a Maine Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) request make clear that the suit against Dan Brown is a "test case" for the Maine Department of Agriculture. Agriculture Commissioner Walt Whitcomb and Quality Assurance and Regulation Director Hal Prince had made public statements denying that the suit against Brown and Gravelwood Farm had anything to do with Blue Hill's "Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance."[22][23] Emails obtained by Food for Maine's Future prove otherwise.[24]

In April 2013, Hancock County Superior Court ruled against Brown,[25] and in June he was fined $1,000 for "selling unlabeled, unlicensed raw milk" and operating a food establishment (his roadside farm stand) without a license, according to the Bangor Daily News. His case is being appealed.[26]

State Legislation to Deregulate Small Scale Raw Milk Production

To complicate matters, in June 2013 the Maine state legislature passed LD 1282 to deregulate the small-scale production of raw milk.[27] However, Governor Paul LePage vetoed the bill in July,[28] citing concerns about a provision in the bill allowing the sale of the product at farmer's markets,[25] and the veto was sustained.

According to The Free Press in Maine:

"The decision was met with outrage from a number of conservative, libertarian, food-sovereignty activists. Last week, when one member of Maine's Republican National Committeee [sic], six state committee members and six registered Republicans collectively resigned from the GOP, their very public letter cited the governor's raw milk veto as 'the straw that broke the camel's back.'"[25]

Similar Resolution in Massachusetts

The town of Sandisfield, Massachusetts, passed a resolution based on the Maine ordinances in May, 2011. Brigitte Ruthman, who operates a one-cow herdshare in Sandisfield, reported to blogger David Gumpert that her town "adopted a resolution as follows.....'We the people of the town of Sandisfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, have the right to produce, process, sell, purchase and consume local foods thus promoting self-reliance, the preservation of family farms and local food traditions.'"[9]

Similar Resolutions in Vermont

On March 4, 2011, Barre City, Vermont citizens voted (686 to 220) and "resolved to declare sovereignty over. . . the right to save seed, grow, process, consume and exchange food and farm products." On May 10, 2011, the Town of Barre voted (673 to 200) to pass the "Vermont Resolution for Food Sovereignty, a document written by members of the Vermont Coalition for Food Sovereignty in December of 2010," which "asserts that the People have the right and responsibility, individually and through their elected officials, to resist any and all infringements on the rights to save seed, grow, process, consume and exchange food and farm products within the State of Vermont."[29]

With regard to protection for saving seeds, which this resolution added to that drafted in Maine, Jessica Bernier of the Vermont Coalition for Food Sovereignty commented, "Saving seeds is so integral to this. . . . It is a food issue, it is a security issue."[30]

Similar Ordinances and Resolutions in California

In October 2011, Sara Grusky of Green Uprising Farm in Mendocino County, California, submitted a resolution to her county Board of Supervisors based on the resolution that passed in Santa Cruz County in September (see below).[31]

On October 4, 2011, the Los Angeles County, California, Board of Supervisors "took under advisement a food sovereignty proposal put forth by long-time activist Aajonus Vonderplanitz. Los Angeles Mayor Michael Antonovich, in his role as one of five members of the Board of Supervisors, said he had already forwarded it to the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, when Vonderplanitz submitted it a couple weeks ago, with instructions that it be turned into public policy. After the formal session, the former chief operating officer of the L.A. County Department of Health Services and now a Board of Supervisors staff person, Fred Leaf, pulled Vonderplanitz aside and assured him the measure is being taken seriously." As submitted to by Vonderplanitz to the Board of Supervisors, it is a "Resolution recognizing the rights of individuals to grow and consume their own food and to enter into private contracts with other individuals to board animals for food."[32]

On September 13, 2011, Santa Cruz County, California, passed the "Resolution Recognizing the Rights of Individuals to Grow and Consume their own Food Products and to enter into Private Contracts with other Individuals to Board Animals for Food," stating that "the people have the right to own, and where they deem it convenient to share ownership of, such agricultural activities, livestock, and other food producing animals for their own use, enjoyment, and consumption" and that "the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors supports, endorses, and encourages the recognition of the right and freedom of people to raise their own food, including food derived from agricultural animals, for the enjoyment of themselves and their families, either by their own investment and labor or through the assistance of others through contractual arrangements."[33]

In July, 2011, farmer Pattie Chelseth proposed a "Local Food and Self Governance Ordinance" for the county of El Dorado, based on the ordinances passed in Maine in early 2011.[34]

The local Grange of the city of Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County has also expressed interested in a local food resolution, as of September, 2011.[35]


Other SourceWatch Articles

PRWatch Articles

External Resources


  1. Rich Hewitt, Farmers seek to protect locally grown foods, Bangor Daily News, February 24, 2011
  2. Deirdre Fulton, Free our food, Portland Phoenix, May 4, 2011
  3. Kyle Curtis, Keeping the Church Potluck Legal and Free: Will the "Food Sovereignty" Movement Take Hold in Oregon?, BlueOregon, April 24, 2011
  4. Bob St.Peter, Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance of 2011, "Local Food Local Rules" blog, March 2011, accessed September 20, 2011
  5. Rebekah Wilce, Local Ordinances and Land Grabs: Democracy Convention Panels Discuss Food Sovereignty, PRWatch.org, September 8, 2011
  6. Rich Hewitt, Blue Hill voters approve self-governance ordinance, $1.7 million budget, Bangor Daily News, April 3, 2011
  7. David Bowden, Passage of local food ordinance highlights Penobscot town meeting, The Weekly Packet, March 10, 2011
  8. Bob St.Peter, Maine Town Passes Landmark Local Food Ordinance, press release, March 7, 2011
  9. 9.0 9.1 David Gumpert, Two More Towns Approve Food Sovereignty, The Complete Patient blog, May 22, 2011
  10. Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Third Maine Town Passes Landmark Local Food Ordinance, press release, April 4, 2011
  11. Mario Moretto, Brooksville becomes ninth Maine town to defy state on sales of local foods, Bangor Daily News, March 11, 2013.
  12. Kevin Miller, State sues Blue Hill farmer for selling unpasteurized milk at farmers’ markets, Bangor Daily News, November 16, 2011
  13. 13.0 13.1 Clarke Canfield, Towns adopt food self-governance ordinances to exempt farmers from state, federal laws, Bangor Daily News, June 21, 2012.
  14. Town of Montville, Local Food Security Resolution, town resolution, accessed April 5, 2012
  15. Anne Berleant, Isle au Haut votes in favor of food self-governance ordinance, Island Ad-Vantages, June 6, 2013.
  16. Rady Ananda, Home Rule takes a beating as Maine defeats food freedom bills, Center for Research on Globalization, Mary 13, 2011
  17. Maine Legislature, JOINT RESOLUTION EXPRESSING THE SENTIMENT OF THE LEGISLATURE FOR FOOD SOVEREIGNTY, state resolution, adopted June 10, 2011, accessed November 22, 2011
  18. Mario Moretto, Maine farmers speak out against local food sovereignty movement, Bangor Daily News, April 21, 2013.
  19. Maine State Legislature, LD 475 Status, state legislative website, accessed December 2013.
  20. Local Food Local Rules, Blue Hill Maine Farmer Being Sued by State of Maine, media advisory, November 14, 2011
  21. Local Food Local Rules, Jeff Beyea Ripes Walt Whitcomb a New One, speech recorded at rally in support of Farmer Dan Brown in Blue Hill, Maine, November 18, 2011
  22. Faith DeAmbrose, Blue Hill farmer faces lawsuit for sale of milk and food products without license, The Weekly Packet, November 17, 2011
  23. Hal Prince, Quality Assurance and Regulation Director, Maine Department of Agriculture, Agriculture department saw significant risk in raw milk, Bangor Daily News, December 2, 2011
  24. Food for Maine's Future, INTERNAL DEPT. OF AG EMAILS RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT MOTIVATION IN FARMER BROWN CASE: Lawsuit against Dan Brown and Gravelwood Farm a “test case”, organizational press release, April 4, 2012
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Andy O'Brien, Eye on Augusta: Food Sovereignty Movement Takes Root in Maine, The Free Press, August 28, 2013.
  26. Mario Moretto, Blue Hill raw milk seller ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, court fees, Bangor Daily News, June 18, 2013.
  27. Mario Moretto, Small-scale raw milk deregulation law passes House, Senate, Bangor Daily News, June 12, 2013.
  28. Maine State Legislature, LD 1282, state legislative website, accessed December 2013.
  29. Jessica Bernier, Vermont Coalition for Food Sovereignty, Second Vermont Town Passes Food Sovereignty Measure, press release, May 17, 2011
  30. David Gumpert, The Move to Locally-Mandated Food Rights and Standards May Be Gaining Momentum Before Our Eyes; Beyond the Legalities of Food Sovereignty, The Complete Patient blog, May 26, 2011
  31. Jennifer Poole, "Working it out: Goat owners, CDFA to discuss regulation framework," The Willits News, October 12, 2011 (no longer online; on file with CMD)
  32. David Gumpert, Here's a Surprise: Food Sovereignty May Be Coming to L.A. County, The Complete Patient" blog, October 5, 2011
  33. Local Food Freedom - Nevada County, Santa Cruz County Passes a Food Freedom Resolution!, blog entry, September 13, 2011
  34. Carlos Alcalá, El Dorado County farmers challenge food regulations, Sacramento Bee, July 25, 2011
  35. Rohana Mayer, El Paso de Robles Grange #555, legislative update: Time to walk our talk, Paso Robles Press, September 12, 2011