Organic Consumers Association

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Maine Towns Reject One-Size-Fits-All Regulation, Declare 'Food Sovereignty'

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Farm Issues page, Save Raw Milk page, and our Maine News page.

In 2009, Maine farmer Heather Retberg learned that new regulations prohibited her from bringing her chickens to a neighbor's approved slaughtering facility. She'd have to invest some $30,000 she didn't have to build her own facility.

So Retberg shifted her focus to raw dairy instead, selling directly to local neighbors. When she received a notice last year from the Maine Department of Agriculture that she needed a permit, requiring investment way above what she could ever hope to justify with her minimal sales, she'd had enough. She got together with four neighbors similarly upset with the new regulator aggressiveness and, after concluding that state legislators weren't especially interested in tackling the problem, they decided to seek help closer to home.

They drafted proposed ordinances for four neighboring towns that would sanction direct sales of farm products between farmers and consumers, without the involvement of regulators, and even without the involvement of lawyers, if everyone agreed. This spring, they began presenting their ordinances at town meetings -- that New England institution that has stood the test of time -- allowing all of a town's citizens to vote yea or nay on proposed ordinances governing town spending, along with other purely local laws.

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