On Dec. 1, Betsy Garrold gave her presentation, “Keeping the Means of Food Production in the Hands of the People” as the final installment of the Socialist and Marxist Studies Series of the year.
Garrold is the President of Food for Maine’s Future (FMF); a group dedicated to the principles of food sovereignty. The major principle behind food sovereignty is agricultural reform that reorganizes the supply chain of food to promote local face-to-face transactions of food. Food solidarity aims to provide people with a right to nutritious food that is produced in a socially conscious way.
Garrold explained the issues related to the U.S. industrial food system that pose challenges to food sovereignty efforts. Consolidation and specialization of farms has caused a shift from small diversified farms to larger operations that produce a single commodity. These industrial agriculture systems have allowed the U.S. to produce cheap food. These systems, however efficient, are often environmental and animal and human rights nightmares.
The winter 2015 issue of Justice Rising was distributed at the lecture. Justice Rising described the environmental and health issues caused by the centralized industrial food system. The publication also described challenges faced by farmers in Maine today, such as the rule changes in poultry slaughter that threatened Heather Retberg’s chicken operations.
Food Safety and Agricultural policy serves mostly to the industrial agriculture systems, in part due to the millions of dollars food corporations have contributed to politicians and food regulatory agencies such as the FDA and USDA. Regulations require farmers to invest in infrastructure that the average family farm cannot afford. Some states require inspection and licensure on all farm and kitchen prepared products sold or provided to the public, making bake sales and community church dinners illegal.
Food for Maine’s Future and other organizations such as Local Food Rules are fighting back against the bureaucracy posing challenges to small farmers using the Municipal Home Rule rights guaranteed in Article VIII, part second, of the Maine State Constitution.
The Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance (LFCSGO) relies on the Municipal Home Rule’s allowance of a town, city, borough or other municipality to “alter and amend their charters on all matters.” This ordinance exempts local food producers from the licensure and inspection that would otherwise make legal farm to consumer transactions nearly impossible. “It’s passing unanimously in most towns,” Garold said, “People get that we have to protect our food and water.”
FMF has also used their blog and publications to rally support for food reform legislation such as Session 127th Maine Legislature LD 1291: “An Act To Promote Food Self-sufficiency for the People of the State.
The bill would create a network connecting prospective agricultural employees with farms in Maine, require funding for an agricultural education campaign, require the use of local food for supplemental food programs and strengthen municipalities’ power under the LFCSGO. The bill’s final disposition was enacted, yet unsigned by the Governor.
FMF is allied with other community farm organizations across the country through The National Family Farm Coalition. The NFFC carry out projects in the interests of small farms. These projects are carried out by selecting an individual from each ally group to form a specialized task force.
La Via Campesina first introduced the idea of food sovereignty in 1996. The La Via Campesina movement began in 1993; its primary objective is to unite peasants, rural farmers and landless people. La Via Campesina is in 73 countries and represents hundreds of millions of rural farmers.