Last month, Maine Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill into law that gives local governments the authority to enact ordinances regulating local food distribution without state interference. The new law not only takes a big step forward for food sovereignty and local control by limiting state regulation, it will also create an environment hostile to federal regulations and potentially nullify some FDA edicts in effect.
Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) sponsored Senate Bill 725 (LD725). Titled “An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems,” the legislation effectively gives local government control over regulation of local food distribution in the state. Practically speaking, it will eliminate state licensing and regulation requirements on the sale of food locally.
Pursuant to the home rule authority granted to municipalities by Title 30-A, section 3001 and by the Constitution of Maine, Article VIII, Part Second, and pursuant to section 201-A, and notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a municipal government may regulate by ordinance local food systems, and the State shall recognize such ordinances. An ordinance adopted by a municipality pursuant to this section must apply only to food or food products that are grown, produced or processed by individuals within that municipality who sell directly to consumers.
Under the new law, all food products produced for wholesale or retail distribution outside the municipality will remain subject to all state and federal laws.
Effectively, the new law decentralizes regulations for direct producer to consumer sales, and allows local communities to create their own networks of distribution and regulation. An article in the Bangor Daily News explains the purpose of the new law.
Supporters of food sovereignty want local food producers to be exempt from state licensing and inspections governing the selling of food as long as the transactions are between the producers and the customers for home consumption or when the food is sold and consumed at community events such as church suppers.
Food for Maine’s Future acting executive director Betsy Garrold told the Bangor Daily News she was fighting back tears of joy when she heard LePage had signed LD725
“This means face-to-face transactions are legal if your town has passed a food sovereignty ordinance [and] you can sell food without excessive government regulations, If we can feed ourselves, no one can push us around.”
According to the paper, 20 municipalities in Maine have already enacted food sovereignty ordinances. Garrold said the new law will encourage more localities to follow suit.
“I think we are going to see a real groundswell of towns that will not even hesitate to pass [food sovereignty] ordinances because they now won’t have any problems with the state.”
IMPACT ON FEDERAL REGULATION
While state law does not bind the FDA, passage of LD725 creates an environment hostile to federal food regulation in Maine. And because the state will not interfere with local ordinances, that means it will not enforce FDA mandates that conflict with local law. Should the feds want to enforce food laws in Maine municipalities, it will have to do so by itself.
As we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, a federal regulation becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws encouraging the prohibited activity anyway. The federal government lacks the enforcement power necessary to maintain its ban, and people will willingly take on the small risk of federal sanctions if they know the state will not interfere. This increases when the state actively encourages “the market.”
Less restrictive food laws will likely have a similar impact on FDA regulation. It will make it that much more difficult for the feds to enforce their will within the state.
Constitutionally, food safety falls within the powers reserved to the states and the people. The feds have no authority to enforce food safety laws within the border of a state. Nevertheless, federal agencies still want more control over America’s food supply, and they go great lengths to get it.
For example, the FDA actively bans the interstate sale of raw milk. But, not only do they ban the transportation of raw milk across state lines, they also claim the authority to ban unpasteurized milk within the borders of a state.
“It is within HHS’s authority…to institute an intrastate ban [on unpasteurized milk] as well,” FDA officials wrote in response to a Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund lawsuit against the agency over the interstate ban.The FDA ultimately wants to maintain complete prohibition of raw milk across the United States.
However, federal ambitions go far beyond controlling your access to raw milk. In fact, the FDA wants to enforce universal, one-size-fits-all control over everything you eat and drink.
The “Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems” takes an important first step for food freedom. It decentralizes the system down to the local level, and recognizes the fact the one-size-fits-all regulation enforced from the top down by Augusta or Washington D.C. is not necessary for, and it sets the stage to nullify in effect FDA schemes to control the food supply.
LD725 will officially go into effect Oct, 2, 2017.