FOOD FOR MAINE’S FUTURE NEEDS YOU TO JOIN OUR CALL FOR GOVERNOR LEPAGE TO DROP THE LAWSUIT AGAINST FARMER DAN BROWN
Help Food for Maine’s Future deliver the petition to the Governor at 11am Thursday, January 12 at the State House in Augusta!
January 3, 2012
Dear Gov. Paul LePage,
We, the undersigned, call on you and your administration to withdraw the lawsuit against Blue Hill farmer Dan Brown of Gravelwood Farm. Recent rule changes by the Maine Department of Agriculture – including poultry processing and raw milk sales – are making criminals out of hard-working Mainers who are growing and processing food to share in their communities. Now the Department of Agriculture and State of Maine are suing a man milking one cow and selling jams, pickles, and other prepared foods from his farmhouse kitchen. If successfully pursued, this lawsuit will have a chilling effect on Maine’s growing local food movement and the promise of real economic development in our rural communities. Shouldn’t Maine’s small-scale, diversified farms and cottage businesses have the same opportunities generations before us had, without the threat of lawsuits or armed raids as we are witnessing around the U.S.?
*Dan Brown’s farmstand sales for which he is being sued are all legal under the Local Food & Community Self-Governance Ordinance passed nearly unanimously at Blue Hill’s town meeting April 4, 2011. Five towns in Maine have passed this and similar ordinances, inspiring others in Vermont, Arizona, California, and Utah to adopt ordinances and resolutions that encourage “local rules for local food”. Once again Maine is leading the nation, finding creative solutions to complex problems. Yet rather than being celebrated, our five pioneering Maine towns are being treated as though the Ordinances do not exist. Through this lawsuit the State of Maine is attempting to undermine our time-honored town meeting process and the Maine Constitution Article IV Part Third Section 21 by usurping local decision-making and direct democracy.
*By seeking an injunction to stop Dan Brown from selling milk and milk products from his farm without a license, the Department of Agriculture is holding him to a different standard than licensed dairy producers in Maine. According to Hal Prince, director of Quality Assurance and Regulations, the State had to act because Dan’s milk posed “a significant health risk to consumers”, citing test results from three different dairy products taken from Gravelwood Farm’s farmstand on July 26, 2011. Yet, had Dan held a license he would have had to have three bad tests before the Department of Agriculture would take such drastic action as to seek an injunction. We also have concerns about the test results which reveal the samples from July 26 were not taken by a dairy inspector and did not reach the laboratory until the following morning. There exists no temperature log that would have regularly recorded the temperatures during the nearly 20 hours the milk was in transit. The samples were also taken without Dan’s knowledge.
*Long-time customers of Gravelwood Farm have gone on record to say the milk and milk products from the farm are high-quality and have asked for the lawsuit to be dropped. In July when the samples were taken, four families, all with young children, were happily enjoying milk, butter, and cheese from Gravelwood Farm. To Dan’s knowledge no one has been sickened by his dairy products or any of the other foods offered for sale at the farmstand in his five years of operation. Contrast this with the recent Hannaford ground beef recall, where four Mainers were sickened by salmonella-tainted beef. Nearly three weeks later, we still do not know where the beef came from or if the problems that led to the contamination have been corrected. Despite the USDA claiming Hannaford’s “limited records” have hindered the investigation, the company has faced no recourse from the State of Maine for their part in the distribution of this ground beef. Nor is there any indication they will, aside from the costs associated with the recall. The State of Maine’s decision to prosecute Dan Brown is one example of a long-standing bias against small producers who are not making people sick, and in favor of big agribusiness companies who are. Small-scale farmers feeding their neighbors and communities deserve more than to be treated like criminals and second-class citizens.
During a 2008 candidates forum in Brooksville you told the crowd assembled that you would not tolerate federal agencies shutting down or raiding Maine farms. Our organization and our members have been told repeatedly that the hands of the Maine Department of Agriculture are tied when it comes to creating scale-appropriate regulation, and that should Maine do so we would be at risk of losing federal funding or having our state meat inspection program shut down by the USDA. We have been told that Maine has a good raw milk program and we must not anger the FDA, whose stated goal is the elimination of all raw milk consumption. Shouldn’t your campaign promise to protect Maine farmers also apply to our state agencies working at the behest of the FDA and USDA to do exactly what you said would not happen?
We strongly urge you to side with small farmers, their willing patrons, and the Maine Constitution. Drop the lawsuit against Dan Brown and respect the authority of the Local Food & Community Self-Governance Ordinance.
Food for Maine’s Future
Why is the State of Maine suing a man milking one cow? Read the latest issue of Saving Seeds and our special section “We Are Farmer Brown” to gain important insights into the on-going escalation against community food sovereignty.