AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Governor Paul LePage wants the Legislature to return to Augusta to fix some problems, including a new law—which he signed—that the Governor says poses big concerns for small farmers and meat producers.
Its called the Food Sovereignty Law, and the stated goal was to make it easier for small farmers and food producers to sell their products locally, by allowing local government to regulate them instead of State of federal agencies.
Small food producers and farmers are the success story of Maine agriculture and have seen significant growth in recent years. But some of them say that growth could be threatened by the new law, because it would potentially have local governments regulate food safety, including inspection of meat and poultry.
Currently, the state inspects slaughterhouses to make sure they’re following health and safety requirements set by the federal government. But the USDA sent a letter to the LePage Administration, saying that if the food Sovereignty Law goes into effect as is, the USDA will take control of meat and poultry inspections in Maine to make sure they’re being done properly. Meat producers, like Nan Kennedy of Meadowcroft Farm in Washington, said that would make it more difficult for small farmers to do business.
"I think it would be very expensive and cost prohibitive for our processing industry," said Kennedy, "and therefore there would be an absolute block between farmers and customers the consumers."
Kennedy and Todd Pierce, who owns West Gardiner Beef, a slaughterhouse and meat cutting business, said Health and safety standards are crucial and need to be maintained.
"I don’t think the food sovereignty thing should be thrown out the window. But there needs to be a little different angle to it," said Pierce.
The Governor wants lawmakers to amend the law to exempt meat and poultry from the food sovereignty law so that state inspections can continue.
Legislative leaders had already been talking about holding a special session in the fall to deal with the new marijuana law, and would likely handle all the issues at the same time.