A few weeks ago, Maine Governor Paul LePage signed a Food Sovereignty Bill into law, guaranteeing the rights of Maine towns to regulate food production locally, rather than submitting to federal regulation. Although the press is avoiding describing the bill as such, this is a nullification of federal food regulations.
The movement for food sovereignty in Maine began in the town of Sedgwick, which passed its own food sovereignty bill, and the idea quickly spread to twenty towns across the state. The Sedwick law explicitly gave citizens of the town the right to "produce, process, sell, purchase, and consume local foods of their choosing," such as raw milk and meats slaughtered locally in plants that do not meet the burdensome federal regulations that create barriers of entry for smaller operations.
At first, the state of Maine reacted by suing citizens of the municipalities that passed Food Sovereignty Laws, with the state Supreme Court ruling against farmer Dan Brown for selling raw milk in the town of Blue Hill, which had passed a law mimicking Sedgwick. It was this case that helped the food sovereignty movement gain steam, and in June, the state government capitulated to the farmers by passing the state-wide law protecting the citizens of any municipality that passed such a law. Essentially, the state of Maine is recognizing the right to local regulation of its food industries.
Decentralizing measures regarding food regulation are not isolated to Maine. Two years ago, Wyoming passed a law protecting the right of the citizens to sell unlicensed "homemade" food without fear of prosecution. The Wyoming law is not as sweeping as the Maine Food Sovereignty Laws, but it similarly represents the increased willingness of states to nullify federal regulations regarding food. Maine, however, is the first state to pass a law aimed broadly at all food regulations, rather than a single specific regulation.
The food sovereignty movement is undoubtedly a response to the increasingly burdensome regulations on small food producers. The response from Maine farmers who support the bill indicate that the movement is a reaction to the costs imposed on small producers by federal regulations. Jordan Pike, a farmer from Lebanon, Maine, said of the law: