Here I’ve been hard at work moving greenhouses to our new place, planting garlic, mulching, all the while snapping photos here and there with the intent to write some sort of fall prep/moving the farm blog this week when it suddenly hit me that next Tuesday is voting day. You didn’t expect me to pass on that did you?
One of the catchy little buzz phrases that’s popped up in the local food movement is: “Vote with your fork!” It’s a valid idea. In fact, if you voted, at least on behalf of your fork (or really your stomach) you would be voting not just on the issue of local food but everything food touches. Here’s just a short list: Healthcare, air quality, water quality, land use, transportation, urban planning, economic development, global warming, petroleum price and usage, the military budget, immigration and jobs. The list of things that would change if we were all eating locally produced and processed food would actually be much, much longer. But you get the point. In case you haven’t the point is you should absolutely vote with your fork, that is, with agricultural production at the forefront. With that in mind let’s look at the race for governor one candidate at a time.
You can check out my thoughts on the agricultural policies of Mr. Michaud and Mr. Cutler in the posts I’m putting up simultaneously with this one of Governor Lepage. When I sat down to research for this blog I started by visiting each candidate’s campaign website. Here is Paul LePage’s Issues Page. Take a quick peak. Absent is a heading for Agriculture and Forestry. It just isn’t there. I was surprised by this simply because of the importance of agriculture, forestry and fishing to Maine’s economy. But I wasn’t disappointed. When you don’t have heroes they never fall.
Fortunately, for the voter wishing to vote with his or her fork you don’t need to visit a P.R. company’s slick website to get a hint about LePage’s stance on food and agriculture. He does, after all, have a record on these issues. Take for instance the fact that Mr. LePage (and the Republican Commissioner of Agriculture that he appointed), champion of ‘small government’ who stands as a wall against intrusive government regulations and oversight, investigated and sued a farmer in Blue Hill to get him to stop selling milk to his neighbors and at the local farmers markets. Nobody was sickened and there were no complaints, in fact his customers were quite happy with his product, yet the state took a small farmer, milking one cow, to court spending who knows how much money, time and person power to do so, not to mention all the time and money spent investigating this farmer…for a year and half! There is actually a wonderful, short documentary about this case online.
You could also look at Governor LePage’s veto of a bill that would have increased the economic viability of many micro and family farms by decreasing unnecessary state involvement in private transactions over raw milk that occur directly between farmers and their customers.
You could also take a look at the administration’s position on the Local Food and Community Self Governance Ordinances that have been passed in several Maine Towns. In fact, Mr. LePage’s Commissioner of Agriculture and I discussed this issue a couple years ago on MPBN television.
On the campaign trail in Brooksville before he was elected Mr. LePage answered a question from a local farmer about federal oversight and interference in transactions between farmers and their neighbors. Well, he actually interrupted the farmer who never got to finish his question. Fortunately, I know this farmer who shared with me the rest of his question. Mr. LePage stated that he would have the county sheriff escort to the border any federal authorities who tried to interfere with our farmers. Apart from this childish bravado there wasn’t much movement on that front. In fact, under his administration the state has continued to work hand in hand with the federal government in the regulation of farms that do not sell across state lines. The argument being that ‘our hands are tied’ because of ‘in kind’ or ‘as good as’ rules adopted and enforced by the state on behalf of the federal government. While you would have to know something about the inspection regimes of the state and federal governments for those phrases to make much sense, suffice it to say it must be hard to live up to campaign braggadocio when your ‘hands are tied’.
Needless to say, Mr. LePage would not be invited to my local food dinner table. Afterall, based on the fact that he doesn’t even mention Maine’s Agriculture (which makes a pretty big economic impact on the state) he and I probably wouldn’t have much to talk about at the dinner table. Local Food. Eat well – be well.