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.

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 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 182016
 

berries-1022839_640Know & Defend Your Rights. Transformational Conflict. Food Sovereignty.  How-To.

April 23rd, 10-4, Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast

with Heather Retberg, Bonnie Preston, and honored guests: Laila Johnson and Logan Perkins; and a panel of town organizers from communities across the state.

Join keynote speaker Laila Johnson, from Wisconsin, to share her knowledge  on transformational conflict and community self-governance.  Local lawyer extraordinaire, Logan Perkins, will help you learn more about the rights you’ve asserted under the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance and how to defend them as a community and as individuals.  Bonnie and Heather will pass on what they’ve learned about community self-governance, home rule, and state law so you’ll be prepared for the questions raised by your selectmen, city councilors, and your fellow citizens.  They and a panel of town organizers will share experiences, answer questions, and help you stand up for the ordinance if you have already passed it, allay fears if you have not yet passed it, and give you some experience confronting and working with an opponent.

Plan to come wherever you are in the process of protecting our traditional foodways: if you have passed the ordinance, if you are ready to work on it, if you are thinking about it, or if you are just curious about it.

This will be a bring-your-own-lunch event, but we will provide morning coffee and something to go with it, and dessert/afternoon snack, almost certainly involving chocolate.  Please let us know if you’re coming, so we can plan accordingly.  E-mail or call 374-3636.

Hope to see you there!  Bring friends, especially from nearby towns that may be helped by the ordinance. This will be a great opportunity to meet people who will be a support network as we all work to advance our food rights.

Apr 032016
 
Share your ideas with other Granges!

Share your ideas with other Granges!

Here’s a quick tip gleaned from a recent “Legislative Update” published by National Grange:

Bus Stop Farmers Markets

Following in the footsteps of food trucks, those mobile fast food stands parked along city streets at noon, mobile farm stands are beginning to show up in so-called “food deserts.” These low-income neighborhoods have plenty of quickie marts and liquor stores but lack full-service grocery stores with fruits, vegetables, and other fresh foods. These mobile markets show up at bus stops and transit stations in low-income neighborhoods with fresh goods typically at discounted prices.

Mar 212016
 

by Jim Annis, Legislative Director

Due to a lengthy debate on the minimum wage increase and the Maine State Grange Legislative Luncheon, the legislature adjourned last Thursday before voting on LD 783. Since this gives folks a second chance to contact their representatives with comments, another action alert has been issued. It contains both the text of the proposed referendum question and the proposed amendment and is available here: Call to action on LD 783 – II. The vote will likely happen this Tuesday.

Jan 212016
 

Farm Market Conv
MFFM’s annual farmers’ market convention will take place on Sunday, January 31st, at the Maple Hill Farm Inn and Convention Center in Hallowell (just outside of Augusta). This day-long convention will bring together market farmers, market managers, and others for a day of shop talk and networking. As usual, we’ll have breakout sessions all day on a variety of topics, including:

  • Food safety requirements for a safe and legal farmers’ market
  • Pricing: breaking even or making a profit?
  • Scaling up your FM business
  • Working with municipal governments – how to build good relationships
  • Developing (and enforcing) market rules
  • Effective outreach to low-income shoppers
  • Market promotion and outreach
  • Farmers’ markets in 2020 and beyond
  • Labor law and your FM business
  • Market manager roundtable discussion
  • What’s happening at your market? News from around the state

Register online or by emailing infoatmffmdotorg  (infoatmffmdotorg)  

Nov 272015
 

MFM ConventionMFFM’s annual farmers’ market convention will take place on Sunday, January 31st at the Maple Hill Farm Inn and Convention Center in Hallowell (just outside of Augusta). This day-long convention will bring together market farmers, market managers, and others for a day of shop talk and networking. As usual, we’ll have breakout sessions all day on a variety of topics, from marketing to funding to governance and more. See session details at mainefarmersmarkets.org. Registration opens in December.

Oct 202015
 

NewsThere’s an interesting poll accompanying this article, recently published in the Portland Press Herald! The poll question asks whether or not the reader has attended an event at a Grange Hall. When I checked it just a few minutes ago 64% said “yes,” 27% said “no,” and the remaining 9% indicated that they’d never heard of the Grange. As with most statistics, this poll might raise more questions than it answers.

The article itself appears well-researched but does contain a few minor inaccuracies–many Grangers will spot them quickly. But don’t be distracted by them, because the article does seem to be attempting to tell an objective story and does provide some interesting food for thought.

Click and read the comments, too… there will be some by people you know!

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/10/18/the-state-of-the-grange-in-maine/