At their town meetings in March, three coastal Maine communities declared food sovereignty for the purposes of supporting local food production. Regardless of what state or federal law requires, they said, direct sales of food to consumers are exempt from inspection and licensing requirements. Bob St. Peter, one of the organizers behind the ordinances, is coming to Vermont this week. He spoke Monday on WDEV’s Equal Time Radio…
The towns explicitly exempt producers or processors of local food from state and federal requirements when they are selling direct to consumers, for home consumption. St. Peter says that state and federal authorities have not accepted the ordinance.
“The three towns that passed this ordinance, Sedgwick, Penabscot, and Blue Hill, all received letters from the commissioner of the department of agriculture, saying that this ordinance violates the state’s ability to pre-empt local rules that stifle or interfere with state or federal requirements. From what I understand, the Feds are putting pressure on the state to do something about this.”
St. Peters argues that webs of trust and accountability make for a robust, safe local food system. “There’s always friendly competition, there’s always the prospect that if you sell something that is not good or inferior in any way or somehow shouldn’t be sold, then people are going to know about it. So there has been this self-regulating mechanism that happens in small, rural communities. If you are focusing on direct, face-to-face sales, selling it to the people who are going to eat your food, then you’ve got transparency, you’ve got immediate traceability, and you’ve got full accountability. Those are the three legs of the stool of a healthy, safe, robust food system.”
St. Peter will be the keynote speaker at Rural Vermont’s annual meeting in Richmond Wednesday night. He will also speak Thursday evening at Green Mountain College in Poultney.
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