Mainers have always been known for our independence and work ethic, so it should come as no surprise that we are consistently ranked as one of the top states for growing and consuming local food. We have lots of farmers in our state, big and small, organic and conventional alike, who grow and process the food that ends up on our dinner tables. Farmers’ markets, farm stands, cooperatives and food hubs serve as informal community gathering places where people catch up and meet their neighbors. There’s no doubt that local food and local farms are an important part of our economy and our communities. That’s why I am doing my part in the Maine Senate to support local agriculture.

I serve as Senate chair of the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF) Committee, which deals with bills related to agriculture in Maine. There have been no shortage of such bills this session, and we have put forward some important proposals this year that could help support local agriculture.

One bill making its way through the process is LD 351, “An Act To Ensure Accuracy in the Labeling of Maine Meat and Poultry,” which was introduced by Rep. Bill Pluecker of Warren. This bill would clarify that meat labeled as “Maine-raised” must be born and raised in Maine, which will help Maine-based meat producers distinguish their product and provide clarity for customers.

Rep. Pluecker also introduced LD 920, “An Act To Establish the Fund To Support Local Fruits and

Vegetables Purchasing,” which would offer incentives for folks on public assistance to purchase healthy, local foods, which will support healthy living and local agriculture. This bill awaits funding, but it’s a good program, and I was proud to support it.

One bill that has been signed into law by Gov. Mills, is LD 497, “An Act Regarding the Providing of Human Food Waste to Swine Producers.” This bill was introduced by Sen. Stacey Guerin of Glenburn, and makes it easier for individuals and organizations to donate their food waste to pig farms. Lots of schools around the state already do this, but there are a bunch of hoops they must jump through, and thankfully, some of those will be eliminated by this new law.

We also passed out of committee an important bill from my co-chair, Rep. Craig Hickman, of Monmouth. LD 795, “RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Establish a Right to Food,” would start the process of amending the Maine Constitution to establish that all citizens of Maine have a right to food. The principle behind this is very simple — we all need food to survive; it should be a fundamental right. Because it proposes a change to Maine’s Constitution, this bill, if passed, will have to go before the voters for a referendum before it takes effect.

My colleague Sen. Susan Deschambault of Biddeford introduced a bill that would help farmers’ markets. LD 805, “An Act To Clarify the Laws Governing Taste Testing and Retail Sales of Liquor at Farmers’ Markets and To Allow Retail Sales at Other Taste-testing Events,” would allow free alcohol tastings in farmers’ markets. This will make it easier for small brewers, craft distilleries and wineries to sell their products at farmers’ markets, and add an extra draw for the markets themselves. This bill didn’t go through my committee, but I was glad to support it when it came through the Senate.

It’s my hope that through these bills and others that we’re working on, we can boost our local farmers and support local food.

If you have any questions or comments, I’d like to hear from you. I can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (207) 287-1515. I work for you, and you have a right to hold me accountable.

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