I really don’t have a dog in the fight, but I’ve been amused by the back and forth between local governments, farmers, gardeners and government regulations over who can sell food to whom. The biggest most public fight occurs in Virginia where the government fined a woman for having a birthday party at her small farm. It is an interesting article revealing just how far even local code enforcement has gone driven by overzealous small town bureaucrats. This particular issue started I’m sure with some rich big town folk moving to the country to escape the nightmare of the city and ITS regulations, but sadly brought that same mindset to the small towns. It happens from state to state (California to; Oregon, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming for example) and region to region. But it also happens from town to town. Now we are seeing blow back from the local level.
Voters here made their town the fifth in Hancock County to pass a local food sovereignty ordinance that thumbs its nose at state and federal regulations for direct-to-consumer sales of prepared foods and farm products.
In a referendum election on March 4, residents voted 112-64 to approve the “Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance,” which states that producers or processors of local foods are “exempt from licensure and inspection,” so long as the food is sold directly by the producer to a consumer.
The ordinance also makes it “unlawful for any law or regulation adopted by the state or federal government to interfere with the rights organized by this ordinance.”
The state contends that such ordinances hold no legal weight, but that hasn’t stopped residents of Sedgwick, Penobscot, Blue Hill and Trenton from passing the same local rules. Food sovereignty ordinances also have been passed in Hope, Plymouth, Livermore and Appleton.
In an interview, Kaylene Waindle, special assistant to the attorney general, said the state has a legitimate and legal interest in overseeing the safety of food being sold to consumers, and that state laws about food safety, inspection and licensing pre-empt local ordinances.
Much like individual states passing marijuana laws that fly in the face of the federal government’s stance on cannabis, the dispute over who controls local food regulation seems destined for court.