Jun 202017
 

by Heather Retberg

On last Friday morning, Governor Paul LePage signed the food sovereignty bill into law.

“In the year of our Lord two thousand and seventeen,” begins the bill,  “be it enacted by the people of the State of Maine as follows…”

The bill officially recognizes the authority of our towns to regulate our food systems by local ordinance when the sales are between individual farmers, food producers, and customers.  It also offers into state law the first definition of ‘local food system’.  What began in 2009 as an administrative language change that made our work illegal overnight, has now, at long last, been corrected.  The rule of law is behind our labors once again!  We have prevailed in defining ourselves and what we do in legal terms.  And, further, the state of Maine recognizes that each of us in our towns, has the authority under home rule at town meeting, to decide for ourselves how our food needs are met.  A very heartfelt thanks to all of you over this last session and over the years, for your words of encouragement and sustenance.  Thanks also for contacting representatives, senators and the governor to protect the food system and the relationships around it that we have cultivated together over the years.  It is a sweet time of celebration we are so pleased to share with all of you!

The full text of the soon to be chaptered law:

https://legislature.maine.gov/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=SP0242&item=6&snum=128

Please do the last thing, the best, most pleasant part of this whole process: write the governor one more time and express your thanks for his signature.  Also, please thank your senator and representative for their efforts and votes, and help them know just how important this is outside of the halls of the statehouse.

Jun 172017
 

Webmaster’s note: This was “stolen” from Heather Retberg’s Facebook Page! 

At 10 am on Friday, Governor LePage signed LD 725 An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems.

The State of Maine has officially recognized food sovereignty.

Let us celebrate. This is a good day for our small farms, for our rural communities, for our town meetings, and democracy from the bottom up!

Congratulations to all of you who have worked so hard, so long and so steadfastly to bring this day to light.

Special thanks to Senator Jackson for sponsoring the bill and co-sponsors: Senators Langley and Miramant, and Representatives Dunphy and Martin.

A lion’s roar of thanks to Representative Craig Hickman for his fierce, principled tenacity, for his expert navigation and shepherding of LD 725, and for his unrelenting force that just wouldn’t give up.

Thank-you.

Jun 142017
 

Annisby Jim Annis, Legislative Director

The last resolution submitted to the Legislative Committee to eventually be sent to the Maine State Legislature to be sent out as a bill currently resides in limbo.

The resolution, submitted by Cumberland Pomona, requests that automobile inspections for automobiles younger than five years of age be inspected by the state once every two years.

The Legislative bill, LD 623 and titled An Act To Require Biennial State Motor Vehicle Inspections, has been tabled twice. It currently is listed as “unfinished business” as of April 20, 2017.

What its chances are for being made law are pretty remote at this point in time. But I will maintain contact with the bill’s sponsor.

Unfortunately, Grange bills haven’t had much luck this year. But this bill isn’t really dead yet. There’s still hope for it. I’ll keep you informed.

 

Jun 042017
 

The Bangor Daily News recently published a fairly thorough and accurate article on the progress of LD 725 (supported by a MSG Resolution passed in 2015). You can read the article here. The situation can change almost daily, but as of this past Wednesday, the bill had passed in both the House (with a super majority) and Senate. According to the article, the bill still has several hurdles to overcome, including the governor’s signature.

We are also told the towns of Blue Hill and Islesboro have sent official town letters of support. The towns of Solon, Moscow, Liberty, and Greenwood are considering or working on similar letters.  Two representatives have asked to meet with the governor to advocate for his support of the bill.

Grangers who wish to help can still do so by contacting your senator or representative and encouraging them to “hold to their affirmative votes” and contacting the governor and encouraging his signature. For more information or assistance, contact Heather Retberg  (quillsendfarmatgmaildotcom)   of Halcyon Grange.

 

May 302017
 

By Heather Retburg,
Ag Ed Committee Member

While the farm spring rhythms beat louder and stronger each day, the work to fully realize food sovereignty grows to a fevered pitch just now, too.  Last weekend, the small town of Greenwood, Maine, in Oxford County adopted the Local Food & Community Self-Governance Ordinance, making it the 19th town in eight counties across Maine to do so.  And, this, just before the vote in the Maine Senate to require the state to recognize these ordinances!  Such nice timing.  When the vote on LD 725 (An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems) happened last Wednesday afternoon, the tone had changed considerably for the better.  With all the outreach from people across the state, with all the work done under the dome by our legislative allies to bring more of the opposition on board, with a LOT of dialogue and several drafts of an helpful amendment, the vote on Wednesday, that we expected to win or lose by one or two votes, was unanimously in favor of LD 725!  This was a moment long in the making. We’re not over the finish line yet, but I have learned to celebrate the moments of victory–each one a monumental undertaking of sorts!  The food sovereignty bill proceeds to the house this week for a vote. If it passes there and is subsequently enacted by both chambers as we expect, it will head to the governor’s desk for a signature, another unpredictable hurdle.   Meanwhile, the food freedom bill, LD 835 An Act to Promote Small Diversified Farms and Small Food Producers sponsored by Rep. Ralph Chapman, is tabled in the Senate awaiting enactment before it goes to the governor’s desk.  So much as we can tell from out here,  the Senate is waiting to see what happens with LD 725 before it passes Rep. Chapman’s bill in final enactment to the governor.  We are urging them to enact both and send both to the governor’s desk. If any of our Grange brothers and sisters across the state have the governor’s ear, now would be a great time to ask them to bend it in the direction of small farms and our community’s local control of food systems!

 

May 202017
 

Webmaster’s Note:  The following article is reprinted with permission from an e-newsletter published by Paul Stearns, State Representative for District 119, reprinted with permission. 


On June 13, voters will cast ballots in a statewide special referendum election and Maine’s Secretary of State wishes to remind all Maine voters of an informational resource that can help them make informed decisions at the polls.  The 2017 Maine Citizen’s Guide to the Referendum Election is available online here.

The Citizens Guide is intended to provide as much information as possible so that voters have a convenient resource to educate themselves before casting their ballot.  The Department of the Secretary of State, in collaboration with the Attorney General, State Treasurer, and Office of Fiscal and Program review, prepared the guide as an unbiased and non-partisan review of the bond issue that voters will consider at the polls this June.

Question 1 asks: “Do you favor a $50,000,000 bond issue to provide $45,000,000 in funds for investment in research, development, and commercialization in the State to be used for infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades that enable organizations to gain and hold market share, to increase revenues and to expand employment or preserve jobs for Maine people, to be awarded through a competitive process to Maine-based public and private entities, leveraging other funds in a one-to-one ratio and $5,000,000 in funds to create jobs and economic growth by lending to or investing in small businesses with the potential for significant growth and strong job creation?”

In the guide, voters can read the full text of the bond proposal legislation, the fiscal impact information, and an analysis of the intent and content of the bond question.  Election law also allows for citizen advocacy statements to be published supporting or opposing questions, which provides voters with those viewpoints to consider, but no public comments were filed in support or opposition to this question.

Voters can request absentee ballots online via the Secretary of State’s Web site.  Ballots can also be requested in person, by phone, or by mail from the municipal clerk. Contact information for municipal clerks is available here.

May 032017
 

by Heather Retberg, Ag Committee Member

Here’s the latest on where we stand with the bills supported by the Maine State Grange this legislative session.

We are to the stage where even 5 letters to senators and representatives from individual Grange members in districts across the state could really help tip the balance in favor of community-based farms and our local food systems.  The votes on these bills will be close in both house and senate, but there are definitely senators and reps who will vote in favor IF they hear from constituents.  If they don’t, with 2, 000 bills before them and no direction on these two, they will likely vote against or simply on party lines.  The vote on both of these bills will likely come in the next 2 weeks.

I asked one of our members, Peter Nelson, to forward his simple and straightforward letter to his representative and senator on to you in case it could prove a helpful sample to others:

Given the very real and serious problem of food and water security throughout the State and the ongoing struggle of family farms to grow and supply food product locally, it is vital that these two bills become law. They are connected, and when combined it will empower local communities to better solve the problems of food production and distribution. There is a high percentage of school children in Maine that do not have enough money to buy a school lunch each day. Meanwhile, local farmers work their own land, poultry, and animals for little more than room and board in their own homes. Please vote to empower constituents to do whatever we can to efficiently link supply and demand. Our young children are our most valuable ‘ natural resource ‘. We urge the passage of each of these important bills.

LD 835, An Act To Promote Small Diversified Farms and Small Food Producers

It allows persons preparing food in their own homes to sell directly to consumers or to offer homemade food at certain events without being licensed as food establishments. 

LD 725, An Act To Recognize Local Control Regarding Food and Water Systems.

This bill authorizes municipal governments to regulate local food systems and requires the State to recognize such ordinances. 

Please contact your Senator and Representative and urge them to pass these two bills.

Respectfully submitted,

Peter Nelson, Steward, Halcyon Grange 345


UPDATE:

The work session was held last Wednesday on LD 725, An Act To Recognize Local Control Regarding Food and Water Systems.

This bill authorizes municipal governments to regulate local food systems and requires the State to recognize such ordinances.  This is a food sovereignty bill to ensure that we can participate directly at town meeting to make decisions about how our food needs are met in our towns.

What proceeded after the work session was opened, however, was strange and frustrating.  The committee’s policy analyst wasn’t called upon to deliver her analysis of the public hearing. Rep. Hickman, a co-sponsor of the bill,  having been asked to return to the work session with answers to questions from the public hearing, wasn’t called upon.  The committee chair didn’t wait for the bill sponsor, Sen. Jackson, to arrive.  No work session happened. An amendment was immediately offered by Rep. Madigan to remove language that would recognize municipal authority to regulate the commercial transport of water beyond a municipality.  A vote was called. The State and Local Government Committee voted once to remove the water portion from the bill.  The Republican senate committee chair, Sen. Davis then closed the work session as if the committee had voted on the bill itself.  He took the vote to remove water from the bill as the committee vote on whether or not to recommend an ‘ought to pass’ vote from the committee.  As of Friday, the bill received a 7-4 majority ought to pass as amended vote from the committee, with two members absent who have so far declined to register a vote on the bill.  Once this bill has final language review by the committee, it will proceed first to the Senate and then to the House for a vote, likely in the next 2 weeks.

A split committee vote, and one that will likely be close along party lines makes the engagement of constituents necessary to help ensure the bill’s passage. The senators and representatives will be hearing from the industry and trade lobbyists as well as the commissioner of agriculture against this bill, although the legislature has already enacted a law that directs that the “state shall support policies that, through local control, preserve the abilities of communities to produce, process, sell, purchase and consume locally produced foods.” (Title 7-A, 201-A) They need to hear from all of us to counter that pressure from within!

LD 835, An Act To Promote Small Diversified Farms and Small Food Producers received a 7 to 6 majority ought to pass vote from the Agriculture Committee on April 20. Republican committee chair Senator Davis voted against the bill, though Republican Senator Saviello voted in support. LD 835 would allow direct sales between Maine farmers and patrons. It allows persons preparing food in their own homes to sell directly to consumers or to offer homemade food at certain events without being licensed as food establishments. This bill received strong support from representatives of the 18 towns and one city in Maine that have passed food sovereignty ordinances and resolutions. The Department of Agriculture and many dairy industry representatives came out in force against this bill. Once this bill has final language review it will go to the House first for a vote, and then the Senate likely in the next couple weeks.

What to do NOW:  It will be very important for all of us to contact our senators (follow the link below to find your senator and representative)  asking them to support these bills allowing safe, local control of our local food system and traditional food exchanges.  Please contact your senators on LD 725 and your representatives, too.  This bill will go to the Senate first.

LD 835 will start in the house.  We’ll keep you as up to date as possible as we find out timelines for the votes.  It’s all getting awfully rushed now at this point in the session.

A complete list of senators with contact information has also been uploaded to the Agricultural Education Section of the “Program Books and Information Page.

The following Senators could be key decision-makers and would especially benefit from hearing personally from people who live or work in their districts:

Senator Joyce Maker representing Senate District 6: Addison, Alexander, Baileyville, Baring Plantation, Beals, Beddington, Calais, Centerville, Charlotte, Cherryfield, Codyville Plantation, Columbia, Columbia Falls, Cooper, Crawford, Cutler, Danforth, Deblois, Dennysville, East Central Washington, East Machias, Eastport, Gouldsboro, Grand Lake Stream Plantation, Harrington, Indian Township, Jonesboro, Jonesport, Lubec, Machias, Machiasport, Marshfield, Meddybemps, Milbridge, North Washington, Northfield, Pembroke, Perry, Pleasant Point, Princeton, Robbinston, Roque Bluffs, Steuben, Sullivan, Talmadge, Topsfield, Vanceboro, Waite, Wesley, Whiting, Whitneyville, Winter Harbor, and part of East Hancock Unorganized Territory.

Senator David Woodsome representing Senate District 33: Cornish, Limerick, Newfield, Parsonsfield, Sanford, Shapleigh, and Waterboro.

Senator Andre Cushing representing Senate District 10: Carmel, Corinna, Corinth, Dixmont, Etna, Exeter, Glenburn, Hampden, Hudson, Kenduskeag, Levant, Newburgh, Newport, Plymouth, and Stetson.

Senator Amy Volk representing Senate District 30: Gorham, part of Buxton, and part of Scarborough.

Senator Eric Brakey representing Senate District 20: Auburn, Mechanic Falls, Minot, New Gloucester, and Poland

Senator Rodney Whittemore representing Senate District 3: Anson, Bingham, Canaan, Caratunk, Central Somerset Unorganized Territory, Cornville, Dennistown Plantation, Embden, Highland Plantation, Jackman, Madison, Mercer, Moose River, Moscow, New Portland, Norridgewock, Northeast Somerset Unorganized Territory (includes Rockwood Strip), Northwest Somerset Unorganized Territory, Pittsfield, Pleasant Ridge Plantation, Rome, Seboomook Lake Unorganized Territory, Skowhegan, Smithfield, Solon, Starks, The Forks Plantation and West Forks Plantation.

Senator Lisa Keim representing Senate District 18: Andover, Bethel, Buckfield, Byron, Canton, Dixfield, Gilead, Greenwood, Hanover, Hartford, Hebron, Lincoln Plantation, Livermore, Livermore Falls, Lovell, Magalloway Plantation, Mexico, Milton Twp., Newry, North Oxford Unorganized Territory, Peru, Roxbury, Rumford, South Oxford Unorganized Territory, Stoneham, Stow, Sumner, Sweden, Upton, Waterford, West Paris, and Woodstock.

Senator James Hamper representing Senate District 19: Bridgton, Brownfield, Denmark, Fryeburg, Harrison, Hiram, Naples, Norway, Otisfield, Oxford, Paris, Porter, and Sebago.

Senator Michael Carpenter representing Senate District 2: Amity, Bancroft, Blaine, Bridgewater, Carroll Plantation, Cary Plantation, Central Aroostook Unorganized Territory, Chapman, Crystal, Drew Plantation, Dyer Brook, Easton, Fort Fairfield, Glenwood Plantation, Hammond, Haynesville, Hersey, Hodgdon, Houlton, Island Falls, Kingman Township, Lakeville, Lee, Linneus, Littleton, Ludlow, Macwahoc Plantation, Mars Hill, Merrill, Monticello, Moro Plantation, Mount Chase, New Limerick, Oakfield, Orient, Patten, Prentiss Township, Presque Isle, Reed Plantation, Sherman, Smyrna, South Aroostook Unorganized Territory, Springfield, Stacyville, Twombly Ridge Township, Webster Plantation, Westfield, Weston,Whitney Township, Winn, and part of North Penobscot Unorganized Territory.

Senator Eloise Vitelli representing Senate District 23: Arrowsic, Bath, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Dresden, Georgetown, Phippsburg, Richmond, Topsham, West Bath, Woolwich and the unorganized township of Perkins.

Senator Susan Deschambault representing Senate District 32: Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport, and Lyman

Senator Catherine Breen representing Senate District 25: Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gray, Long Island, Yarmouth, and part of Westbrook.

Senator Saviello representing Senate District 17: Avon, Belgrade, Carrabassett Valley, Carthage, Chesterville, Coplin Plantation, Dallas Plantation, East Central Franklin, Eustis, Farmington, Fayette, Industry, Jay, Kingfield, Mount Vernon, New Sharon, New Vineyard, North Franklin, Phillips, Rangeley, Rangeley Plantation, Sandy River Plantation, Strong, Temple, Vienna, Weld, West Central Franklin, and Wilton.

Apr 192017
 

Webmaster’s Note:  The following article is reprinted with permission from an e-newsletter published by Paul Stearns, State Representative for District 119, reprinted with permission. 


Business Answers, a program of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, exists to assist new and prevailing businesses with start-up and expansion.  In conjunction with the online service, there is also a toll-free 800-line which you can call and get answers to all of your questions, including:

  • starting and operating a business;
  • State licensing requirements;
  • your business name;
  • becoming an employer;
  • being self-employed; and
  • so much more!

If the answer to your business question is immediately unknown, you will be referred to someone who can better help.  Through Business Answer’s One-Stop Business Licensing Center, information is available with respect to all of the State licenses your business is required to have.  Governor’s Account Executives are available to help with problems and concerns that arise as you work with other State agencies.

Questions about this service?  Please contact Business Answers toll-free telephone system at 1-800-872-3838 in Maine or 1-800-541-5872 outside Maine.  You also have the option of communicating via e-mail at businessdotanswersatmainedotgov  (businessdotanswersatmainedotgov)  .

Apr 132017
 

HeatherBy Heather Retberg

This week, Zander and I headed out into the world beyond the farm, to the realms of college visits and highway travel. We left the pine tree state, still frozen and cold, and found much of the same next door in the granite state, but snowdrops peeked up out of the ground in New Hampshire, where snow pack was still deep in places and winter holding on tightly. Then we went up, up, up into the Green Mountains, still covered by snow and blowing and sleeting as we drove up and over. As we came down out of the mountains, we were in a land where spring had really begun–the grass was green, some farms had cows out on the pasture again, the waters were open and rivers running hard, though the air was still cold.  We left those mountains yesterday afternoon, holding so much information about college programs, student life, possibility, and potential. We held it as we drove, and gathered still more to hold–mountains of skeletal trees and white snows, rushing waters of winter letting go, red, painted covered bridges. There was so much to take in over such a short amount of time.

What a joyful surprise we had on arrival back at the farm so close to midnight on (another) birthday eve, to see that our small farm pond was released from ice and snow. There was a small choral group nearby–woodcocks chittering and peenting, too, but also a sound that seemed most congenial. The conversations of spring have begun. Carolyn reports that today’s sunshine brought out the daffodils around the farm. After holding and holding, listening, engaging, and…preparing, arriving home to this beautiful release was a welcome thing. Birdsong in the morning is becoming normal again, an eagle and two eaglets have taken to flying (practice?) over the farm, the kildeer returned this week, and a pair of woodcocks bobbled about under the maple trees, grubbing. Life returns.

Thoughts of life and water and food advocacy merge together as the public hearing on LD 725 An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food and Water Systems, takes place tomorrow morning in Augusta.  I’ve included our fact sheet on the bill.* If any of you would still like to submit written testimony and are looking for more info, please do. You can borrow freely from the paragraphs provided to help answer three essential questions for legislators: what does LD 725 do, why is it necessary and why is it beneficial.

Thankfully, for all of us, while Zander and I went college visiting, Phil made fresh batches of vanilla Greek yogurt, plain Greek yogurt, and Farmstead cheese.

Today, we celebrated Zander’s birthday and pulled out the ‘Best Birthday Cheesecake’ recipe again. What a silky, delicious use of eggs, yogurt, and cheese. Then, just because gilding the lily is somebirthdaytimes a nice thing to do, we topped the best cheesecake with Ruth & Nicolas’ blueberries and white chocolate curls. A good start to #19 and, a boost for some of his first big decisions to come.

*Webmaster’s Note: You may view the 2015 Maine State Grange Resolution and 2016 Maine State Grange Resolution that relate to these issues by clicking the links or visiting the Program Books and Information Page. There is also a “Fact Sheet” regarding LD 725–in the new “Agriculture Education” section of the page!

###

Heather and Phil Retberg together with their three children run Quill’s End Farm, a 105-acre property in Penobscot that they bought in 2004. They use rotational grazing on their fifteen open acres and are renovating thirty more acres from woods to pasture to increase grazing for their pigs, grass-fed cattle, lambs, laying hens, and goats. Heather is Master of Halcyon Grange #345 and writes a newsletter for their farm’s buying clubs for farmers in her area and has generously given us permission to share some of her columns with Grangers throughout the state.


Grange members are invited to submit guest columns to Views from the Farm for consideration by emailing the webmaster. Please note that the views and opinions expressed in contributed articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Grange.

Apr 042017
 

Public Hearings have been scheduled for two bills supported by Maine State Grange Resolutions passed in 2015 and 2016:

The public hearing for LD 725 will be on April 10, Monday, at 10 am in Room 214 of the Cross Office Building (right across from state house). LD 725 is An Act To Recognize Local Control Regarding Food and Water Systems.

The public hearing for LD 835 An Act to Promote Small Diversified Farms and Small Food Producers will be the same week on April 13th, Thursday, at 1 pm also in Room 214 of Cross Office Building.

Grangers who would like their voices heard are encouraged to attend these hearings and offer testimony! For additional information and assistance, you may contact Heather Retberg  (quillsendfarmatgmaildotcom)  , Master of Halcyon Grange.