Friday, July 17, 2015

Hickman's Bill To Promote Food Self-Sufficiency Becomes Law in Maine

AUGUSTA – A bill to encourage food self-sufficiency in the state has become law in Maine.

“As a fellow farmer asserts, growing your own food is like printing your own money. It is the policy of the state to be food self-sufficient. This bill strengthens that policy by encouraging people to grow, process and preserve their own food to feed themselves, their families and their communities,” said Rep. Craig Hickman of Winthrop, the bill’s sponsor. “It also addresses the current shortage of available farm workers for the many new and expanding family farms that are taking advantage of the growing local foods movement.”

“When a state with a farming and fishing legacy as strong as Maine's imports ninety percent of the food its people consume, there is cleary something wrong with the picture. Thanks to the reputation and availability of our signature commodity foods ― lobster, wild blueberries, and potatoes ― Maine will always be a net exporter of food. But it makes no sense for us to import so much of the food we eat. Mainers produce only fifteen percent of the poultry that we consume. The rest comes from elsewhere. We can do better than this. We must do better. Our economy requires it. The public health, common good, and welfare of our people require it.”

LD 1291, its chaptered law embedded below, would direct the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to develop and administer an agricultural jobs network. It would link farms and facilities that process agricultural products grown in Maine with available workers who are involved in farming or a local food industry, or who are required to perform community service.

It directs the department to develop an educational marketing campaign, similar to the US Department of Agriculture and the US Food Adiministration World War II poster campaign, to promote food self-sufficiency by encouraging the public to grow gardens, raise farm animals and preserve garden-grown food.

Hickman’s bill also requires the Department of Agriculture to purchase food that is grown, harvested, prepared, processed and produced in Maine when purchasing food for an emergency or supplemental food program for elderly or low-income people whenever possible.

LD 1291 passed the Legislature by unanimous consent in both the House and the Senate after it was funded by the Appropriations Committee and sent to the Governor's desk. The law will take effect ninety days after the Legislature adjoured on July 16, 2015.

Hickman is an organic farmer and House chair of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. He is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents Readfield, Winthrop and part of Monmouth.