Sep 062017

Note: As a reminder, Maine State Grange Delegates passed two resolutions in support of Food Sovereignty and small farmers. As many know, the bill did pass. The law is now under attack. After discussion with our Legislative Director, we agreed that we should share this information provided by Heather Retberg with Grangers since we officially supported the bill.

The USDA (FSIS) has sent a letter to the governor stating that our food sovereignty law is ‘non-compliant’ and they will take over Maine’s Meat and Poultry Inspection (MMPI) making us a ‘Designated state’. There are a series of letters that have already been sent between FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection System) and the Quality Assurance & Regulation division of our Dep’t. Of Ag outlining details. We don’t yet have access to those letters.

This is the exact scenario that first led us to local governance and the necessity of asserting our food sovereignty at the local level for traditional foodways and exchanges between individuals. The USDA-FSIS was claiming jurisdiction over our lowest risk, direct-to-patron food exchanges, and we said ‘no’.

We carved out the legal space to protect what had traditionally belonged to people, not governmental agencies run by corporate food entities.  Now that farm patrons and small farmers have stood up together in communities all across Maine, and now that the state of Maine has recognized municipal authority to regulate those food exchanges, the USDA is threatening our state’s fragile meat processing infrastructure.

What can be said about it?

I see it this way right now: when a bully threatens you if you don’t hand over your milk money, what do you do?  Fight back.

When the rules changed around poultry in 2009 and so soon afterward the policy changed toward small dairy farmers selling milk directly to customers from our farms, we fought back.  We went on the offensive and kept the rule of law behind the work of our small farms and dairies and our customers’ access to foods our their choosing.  The state re-instated our legitimacy by recognizing food sovereignty in June of this year.

What do you do when the bully threatens to beat up your friend if you don’t hand over your milk money? That is more difficult. First and foremost, we need to find out if ‘Designated’ status WOULD harm our fragile meat processing infrastructure here in the state. And…just what the impact of a USDA takeover would be. Along with VT, we are the only 2 states in New England that still retain a state level meat and poultry inspection. It isn’t super clear right now, when states must make rules “equal to” the federal rules, how much different the practice of having a USDA trained state inspector would actually be. Under the steps outlined in the USDA guidance on becoming a Designated state, the USDA offers to train existing state inspectors. So…”equal to” federal rules are required, the same person would potentially be inspecting, but with a different badge.  It is likely, however, that the small processors would be required to add additional building infrastructure to be compliant which would pose additional expense.  The USDA has thus shifted the pressure from small farms and farm patrons directly to the meat processors.

So we’re learning fast and furious, working closely with our legislative allies and reaching out to legal resources within our food sovereignty/food freedom circles.

It is a tight, small place between a rock and a hard spot. That is where we are right now.

What can you do?

  • Contact your legislator and let them know you want them to stand up for food sovereignty without harming our processing infrastructure.  Encourage them to find creative ways to maintain our hard-won victory for small farms and food choice, while supporting our small meat processing infrastructure. Why the rush?!?!  It is highly unusual to call a special session to amend a law right before it goes into effect.  None of this information was brought to bear during the public hearings, work sessions, floor debates or the rest of the regular legislative process.  Encourage your legislator to urge that this motion be defeated in the special session, but taken up under the regular session when a more careful, deliberative process can be undertaken by committee.
  • Write the governor urging him to do all in his power to not cede local jurisdiction of our food supply.  We are the first state in the nation to recognize local rules for local food and other states are looking to Maine now to do the same.  Thank him for his original support of the law ensuring the state recognition of local control of our food system and urge him to stay the course.
  • Think about what you are willing to do as a movement to protect food sovereignty.  If the USDA/Big Ag prevails, what are you willing to do to protect your access to farm-raised foods from farmers in your community?
  • Stay tuned.  We’ll need all of us reaching out, pooling our resources and networks, standing together for local rules for local food as this proceeds. We need to line the halls on the day of the special session (not yet scheduled) to demand a balanced approach to this process.

The state of Maine has officially recognized local control of local food.  The Senate voted unanimously in favor, the House voted by a super majority in favor.  Governor LePage signed the bill on June 16, 2017.

Our entire legislative process is now under threat by a federal agency inhabited by the meat monopolies and Big Ag corporations. They stand to lose the most as more Maine communities (up until now ‘their’ market) ensure greater food security by growing and processing our own chickens, sheep, goats, beef, and pork.  We know more states are looking to Maine to enact this in their states.  The USDA is threatening our small meat processing infrastructure in Maine to put a stop to the spread of food sovereignty across the country as more people learn and re-learn how to pick up and use the tools of democracy and local governance to grow our own food security right in our back yards and farms.

Sep 062017

I received the following information yesterday along with a letter from Jim Owens, Administrative Coordinator, asking that annual committee reports be sent to him by September 28, 2017. “You can send your report to me at home as a Word attachment on an email (jimowens1atmyfairpoiintdotnet), on a thumb drive or if you don’t have computer access, just mail it in.”

State Convention Schedule 2017 is the annual order of business/schedule–note that legal-sized paper is required for printing.

State Convention Banquet Info 2017 includes the information and reservation form for the Annual Banquet (Thursday evening) and Ag Luncheon (also on Thursday).  The deadline for reservations is October 5, 2017.

Both of these items can also be found on the Conferences Page where you’ll also find information regarding helping Laurie McBurney with the kitchen by donating supplies and volunteering.

May 112017

Communication Bullets are short but big news!

With thanks to MSG Lecturer Margaret Morse, a complete packet of information regarding the 2017 NE Lecturers’ Conference has been uploaded tot he website… you can find it on the “Conferences Page” or download it directly: 2017 NE Lecturers Conference Packet. Note that the deadline for registering is June 30, 2017.

Also, summer and fall are definitely conference seasons at the state and regional level. Check the Conferences Page often–for dates and information we have! Here’s what we currently have:

Maine State Grange Junior Camp

Scheduled for June 10-11, 2017 at Scribner’s Mills Preservation in Harrison, Maine. Contact Junior Director Christine Hebert for more information and download a registration packet: Junior Grange Camp Packet 2017.

Northeastern Regional Youth Conference

Scheduled for July 7 – 9, 2017 at UMass in Amherst, Massachusetts. A registration packet may be downloaded: 2017 NE Regional Youth Conference Registration. Contact Christina Colson, MSG Youth Director for more information or to return registration packet.

Northeast Lecturers’ Conference

The NE Lecturers’ Conference will be held July 31 through August 2, 2017, at Castleton University in Castleton VT. A registration packet including schedule may be downloaded: 2017 NE Lecturers Conference Packet. Contact Margaret Morse, MSG Lecturer for information and questions.

The Big E

While not exactly a conference, the Big E (Eastern States Exposition) is scheduled for September 15, 2017, through October 1, 2017 in Springfield Massachusetts. There are a number of volunteer opportunities for Maine Grangers. See this post or contact Vicki Huff for more information.

Maine Lecturers’ Conference

The Maine State Lecturers’ Conference will be held on September 30, 2017. The location is yet to be determined. The agenda for that will include awards for contest winners, a talent contest, and program helps. Contact State Lecturer Margaret Morse for additional information.

Maine State Grange Convention

MSG Annual Convention will be held October 19 – 21, 2017 in Skowhegan.

Information about volunteering to help in the kitchen

National Grange Convention

November 7 – 11, 2017 in Spokane, Washington. Additional information on the National Grange Website.

Aug 162016

By Christine Hebert,
Junior Director

What an exciting night!  Norway Grange Officers and Deputy of Cumberland Pomona David Gowen filled the chairs, Kathy Gowen and I were the Matrons. Hailey Pike and Carter Pike took their Junior Grange Obligation.  I think the smiles on their faces say it all. Many thanks to David and Kathy Gowen as well as Norway Grange for making this a successful night.

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Dec 152015

By Christine Colson,
MSG Youth Director

Just a little update for all of you who don’t know me, my name is Christina Colson and I am the new Youth Director for the Maine State Grange. I am new at this, so we will see how this goes. If anyone has any advice or any ideas they would like to share, please email me. I am hoping to have a better idea of what I am going to be doing for a program by next month. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday.

Sep 112015

David NealleyMany people see the fact that our Grange tends to be dominated by aging population as a sign the Grange is losing relevancy. David Nealley believes otherwise and says, “Senior Power is Maine’s Greatest Natural Resource.” David was born in Bangor, Maine in 1961 and graduated from the University of Southern Maine, with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

In an effort to resurrect an old family business, Nealley spent another eight years as the General Manger of Snow & Nealley Company, a manufacturer of axes and garden tools. In this position, he received a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Blue Chip Award for his turn-around of the business and was written up in Entrepreneur and Forbes magazines for his niche marketing expertise.

Later on, David worked on a successful referendum initiative for Bangor Historic Track resulting in one of the largest economic developments in Maine, Hollywood Casino. Due to his varied work experience, he has traveled extensively. He is currently serving his third term on the Bangor City Council.

David also worked with the legislature and the Governor, to establish Maine Seniors Day and is the publisher of MAINE SENIORS Magazine. He is scheduled to share his belief and some challenges on Thursday afternoon at State Conference. Old or young, you aren’t going to want to miss this!

Apr 232015

On Sunday, April 19, over fifty people attended Degree Day at Danville Junction Grange #65!  The four degrees were conferred on nineteen candidates from Androscoggin Grange #8, Danville Junction Grange #65, Rumford Grange # 115, Saco Grange #53, and West Bath #592 by members of Androscoggin Pomona Grange #1.  A light luncheon was served between the second and third degrees by members of Danville Junction Grange.  All the candidates seemed eager to help their Granges SHINE, SHINE, SHINE!