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.
Peter Nelson, Steward, Halcyon Grange 345
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.