By J.D. Hayes
There is a food revolution taking hold all over America, whether it is in the form of demanding labeling of GM foods, the right to produce and sell raw milk and other commodities, or - in the case of Sedgwick, Maine - declaring all local food transactions of any kind free and legal.
According to the website FoodRenegade.com, Sedgwick is the first city in the U.S. to free itself from the constraints of federal and state food regulation. Published reports say the town has passed an ordinance that gives its citizens the right "to produce, sell, purchase, and consume local foods of their choosing," regulations be damned. The ordinance includes raw milk, meats that are slaughtered locally, all produce and just about anything else you might imagine.
And what's more, three additional towns in Maine are expected to take up similar ordinances soon, said the FoodRenegade.com.
Gee - good, ol' fashioned buyer-seller agreements?
Observers of the Sedgwick ordinance say it is much more than just "statement" legislation. Writes blogger David Grumpert, at TheCompletePatient.com:
This isn't just a declaration of preference. The proposed warrant added, "It shall be unlawful for any law or regulation adopted by the state or federal government to interfere with the rights recognized by this Ordinance." In other words, no state licensing requirements prohibiting certain farms from selling dairy products or producing their own chickens for sale to other citizens in the town.
What about potential legal liability and state or federal inspections? It's all up to the seller and buyer to negotiate. "Patrons purchasing food for home consumption may enter into private agreements with those producers or processors of local foods to waive any liability for the consumption of that food. Producers or processors of local foods shall be exempt from licensure and inspection requirements for that food as long as those agreements are in effect." Imagine that-buyer and seller can agree to cut out the lawyers. That's almost un-American, isn't it?
According to Deborah Evans, a Sedgwick citizen, the ordinance further states:
For those questioning the legality of the ordinance - as in, it obviously circumvents state and federal food laws - she notes:
[W]e the radicals who concocted this mutinous act of infamy believe that according to the Home Rule provisions of our State Constitution, the citizens of Sedgwick have the right to enact an ordinance that is "local and municipal in character."
'It's about time'
Many of the local farmers say the ordinance is just what is needed.
"This ordinance creates favorable conditions for beginning farmers and cottage-scale food processors to try out new products, and to make the most of each season's bounty," farmer Bob St. Peter told the website FoodFreedom.com. "My family is already working on some ideas we can do from home to help pay the bills and get our farm going."
"Tears of joy welled in my eyes as my town voted to adopt this ordinance," said Sedgwick resident and local farm patron Mia Strong. "I am so proud of my community. They made a stand for local food and our fundamental rights as citizens to choose that food."
St. Peter, who is a board member of the National Family Farm Council, a food freedom advocacy group, notes that small farmers have a much tougher row to hoe, especially in today's economy, so they need the ability to sell their products more freely.
"It's tough making a go of it in rural America," he said. "Rural working people have always had to do a little of this and a little of that to make ends meet. But up until the last couple generations, we didn't need a special license or new facility each time we wanted to sell something to our neighbors. Small farmers and producers have been getting squeezed out in the name of food safety, yet it's the industrial food that is causing food borne illness, not us."